Friday, July 10, 2009

************Evangelization is More Than**************** ***********Witness and Proclamation Alone***********

“By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of the Reign of God, ‘a kingdom of justice, love and peace.’ They do not, for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master, they fulfill them with uprightness, patience and love.” (CCC, 2046)

The Church’s view of evangelization is not so narrow to merely include witness and proclamation, even though evangelization is incomplete without them and they are the most important parts of it. Rather, the Church’s view of evangelization reaches out and touches every aspect of our lives as individuals as well as the life of the Church. As we have already stated the church “exists in order to evangelize,” this means that every activity that the Church participates in should be evangelistic either explicitly or implicitly. Vatican II states, “The Church, in the very fulfillment of her own function, stimulates and advances human and civic culture.” (GS, 58)

How is it that the Church can fulfill this mission to be evangelistic in every activity? It does so in the daily activity of the Church, and as her members, we can effectively change the world around us by forwarding the Church’s mission. Therefore, making disciples would involve working for those who cannot speak for themselves. When we attend a pro-life rally and forward the Gospel of Life, we evangelize. When we help feed the poor or fight injustice in order to forward the Gospel of the Dignity of the Human Person, we evangelize. Whenever we answer the call of Jesus to love the “least ones,” we evangelize. How? Because as Pope John Paul II says, “The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.” (EV, 2)

The good news that Christ preached to the poor, the sick, and the lonely was that there was a greater good which will overcome the evil they may be experiencing. This good news is the gospel. As Paul VI points out:

“We ourself have taken care to point this out, by recalling that it is impossible to accept "that in evangelization one could or should ignore the importance of the problems so much discussed today, concerning justice, liberation, development and peace in the world. This would be to forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor who is suffering and in need.” (EN, 31)

To witness to and proclaim the gospel is not the whole of evangelization, but the heart of it. Evangelization can only be exhausted by the entire work of the Church’s life. Her entire mission then could be seen, in some way, as being synonymous with evangelization. This is why when one person evangelizes, the entire Church is evangelizing with them. “Evangelization is for no one an individual and isolated act; it is one that is deeply ecclesial.” (EN, 60)

This is not to say that we are doing enough in our parishes and other groups in evangelization. It is our human nature to become comfortable where we presently are and maintaining the status quo seems to become our mission. Youth ministry, marriages, funerals, Sunday Mass, and other ordinary parts of church life are all part of an evangelistic parish. But, without an evangelical dimension (the intent to call others to a life closer to Christ) the parish can be a place of static indifference to the gospel. Praying as a family, overseeing a child’s faith formation, and being a good steward and other aspects of family life should also be evangelistic in nature. Evangelization should touch every part of our lives as individuals, families, parishes and a church.

Do our parishes truly reach out to the family that is mourning a loved one in order to help them understand the love that God has for them? Are homilies preached with passion in order to touch the heart? Are our children seeing our faith lives lived out? Do we fulfill the ordinary with extraordinary love and zeal or do we seek to just get them over with as is so often the case? How are we evangelizing others?

It is easy to rest comfortably when we learn that the daily and ordinary are considered a necessary and important part of evangelization, but it can also be a time of reflection for us to see if these activities are truly seeking the lost, transforming culture, leading others closer to Jesus, and trying to help those that are in need. Let us not rest until all are saved, which will not happen until the end of days.