FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
April 23, 2015
Today’s reading: Acts 8:26-40
The other apostles and not just Peter preached the gospel. “Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.” (v.5). In today’s reading we have the encounter of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip “proclaimed Jesus to him.” (v.35b). This is the kerygma, the first proclamation of the gospel. And this is centered on proclaiming Christ as the Messiah, Savior and Lord.
We learn a number of things with regard to our work of evangelization in this episode.
One, God sends us. “Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, ‘Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.’” (v.26). The harvest is rich but the laborers are few. God intends to use all those who have met Christ and who are living Christ to begin to share Christ. If we are but attentive to the leadings of the Spirit, God will give us the opportunities. At times the leading is like a faint voice; at other times, as in this case, the Spirit gives very specific instructions as to what He wants us to do.
Two, when God sends us, we need to go. “So he got up and set out.” (v.27a). We are commissioned, the Church exists to do mission, and God depends on His people to bring in His harvest. So when we are sent, we must go. Without delay. We must not miss the opportunity already prepared by God.
Three, if people are to know Christ, they must know the Bible. St Jerome says that ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ. Thus the Church is to teach not just about virtues and the Christian life, but must base much of those teachings on the Bible. Unfortunately many Catholics do not know the Bible. Some do know about the Bible, but mainly do not understand it. “Do you understand what you are reading?” (v.30). Others understand at least the surface meaning but are not able to grasp the profound truths of God, and thus need instruction. “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” (v.31a). Still others do not actually live out its prescriptions. Whatever the case, the Bible is crucial to the life of a Christian.
Four, due to the critical importance of the Bible, our preaching of the gospel has to be based on the word of God. “Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.” (v.35). While much of Catholic formation is indeed based on the Bible, there is often no direct reference or quoting scripture passages in Christian education or catechism. But Catholics need to actually get into the Bible, to actually take that book and read it. Thus our LCS is heavy on the word of God, and often becomes the catalyst for a Catholic to start actually reading, studying and meditating on the word of God.
Fifth, the preaching of the gospel, as a person is introduced to Jesus, should lead to a desire to enter into faith in him. “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” (v.36-37). To meet Christ is to desire to live Christ. The proclamation of the gospel is intended to lead people to repentance and faith in Jesus.
Sixth, oftentimes, especially as we utilize our one-day 5-session LCS, we may be concerned that this is not enough and much more is needed. Certainly. But everything starts with the kerygma. We are merely planting a seed. And there are others, especially in the parish setting, that will provide teaching, formation, catechesis, deepening, etc. We in LCSC are tasked with the massive proclamation of the gospel. Oftentimes, after we do so, we move on. But the seed is already planted. There is already new life and a new joy in the gospel. “When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing.” (v.39). A person through repentance and faith has been restored to a relationship with God, God’s grace has been given, empowerment has been imparted through the baptism in the Spirit, tools to continuing growth have been provided, and so a person who has finished the LCS hopefully will continue on his way. And do so with great joy.
Seventh, evangelization must be our lifestyle, mindful of the commission of Jesus to reach the ends of the earth and make disciples of all the nations. “Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” (v.40). Our work in never done, until the Lord returns once again.
LCSC is a lay response to the call to the New Evangelization. It is intended to do rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. It is intended to mainstream Catholic lay evangelization, so that the Church would truly become the missionary body that God intended for her to be.
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