We hear today about the New Evangelization. What is the New Evangelization?
There is no one simple way of defining the New Evangelization. Right off, the Church says that it is something that is urgent, prophetic and revolutionary. It calls on re-focusing and re-directing the Church’s priorities, to committing all of the Church’s energies. It would involve new ardor, methods and expressions.
The New Evangelization has to do with the realization that we are in the end times. There has to be a concerted effort to prepare the bride of Christ for his imminent coming.
What are the elements of the New Evangelization? This is my own take.
First, New Evangelization is centered on Christ. It is about meeting, living and sharing Christ. This has much to say about the so many Catholics who are nominal in their faith.
Second, New Evangelization is about strengthening the Church of which we are a part. It necessitates harnessing the laity, the sleeping giant of the Church. The laity are to participate in the fullness of the life and mission of the Church. An evangelistic lifestyle has to become a part of normal life as a Catholic. For this to happen, a basic focus is on the re-evangelization of nominal Catholics, who make up a great majority of the Church. Once brought back to the Church, Catholics need to grow in Christ, that is, to start to live lives of holiness and discipleship. There also has to be a re-awakening of missionary spirit in the Church. New Evangelization is mainstreaming Catholic lay evangelization.
Third, New Evangelization is about empowerment by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the under-appreciated third Person of the Trinity, whose role is precisely crucial for these times. For living Christ (holiness) and sharing Christ (evangelization and mission), we need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be witnesses and to do a worldwide work of evangelization (Acts 1:8). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to love (Rom 5:5) and to resist the flesh (Gal 5:16). It is the Holy Spirit who guides, directs and strengthens us for mission.
Fourth, New Evangelization needs to be founded on family renewal. The family is the basic unit of the Church as well as of society. The family is the prime target of the enemy, knowing that the weakening or destruction of families undermines the life of faith of Christians. Then renewed families need pastoral care and support, which is found in vibrant communities and parishes, which become a family of families.
Fifth, New Evangelization is about transforming the world. Christians are to be light and leaven. We are in the world but not of it. We animate our environments–social, political, economic, environmental.
Sixth, New Evangelization has a particular focus on Mary, who is the Star of the New Evangelization. She is Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix (these are currently contentious issues, but it is just to emphasize her importance in the work of evangelization and family renewal).
Seventh, New Evangelization involves exploring new models of being Church. The new ecclesial movements are the Spirit’s work for this third millennium. One challenge is how to integrate the charismatic movements with the institutional dimension of the Church. Another is how to integrate the life and mission of the domestic church, the local church, the particular Church and the universal Church (the family, the parish, the diocese and the worldwide Catholic Church). The holy Roman Catholic Church is the only “institution” standing in the way of the enemy, whose dominion is over the whole world.
The journey of CFC
Everything that has happened to us in CFC has prepared us for the New Evangelization.
We have soared and we have been brought low. We have experienced rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization, and we have been humbled by the 2007 crisis. Both experiences are critical to our formation. We have seen and experienced how to be committed evangelizers, and we have been given the invaluable lessons of Lamentations and of Job, of redemptive suffering, which are all needed requirements to become effective instruments of God (1 Pt 5:6). Pope Benedict XVI brings us to focus on the parable of the mustard seed. “New evangelization cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. …. rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow. …. Large things always begin from the small seed, and the mass movements are always ephemeral. …. In other words: The large realities begin in humility.” We have undergone our kenosis, our self-emptying.
To the question “Why does God make it so hard?” (regarding the challenges of our evangelization and community life), God responds, “I am God, who are you.” Now, like Job, we say, “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; …. now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3,5-6). We leave the fruit up to God (1 Cor 3:6), but our part is to give our all, humbly presenting ourselves to God and saying, “Yes Lord, here I am; use me.”
Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5). New ardor, new methods, new expressions. The New Evangelization. Our part is to be open to the leadings of the Spirit, and place our charism at the service of the Church.