Tel: (+234)-708-834-4963, 706-924-9903, 9032616998 | Mail: holycrosscathedralagos@gmail.com



EVANGELIZATION IN THE CHURCH

For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptismand by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.

Every person has the right to hear the Gospel of God to humanity, which is Jesus Christ. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, humanity today needs to hear the words of Jesus: "If you knew the gift of God" (Jn 4:10), because these words elicit the deep desire for salvation which lies in everyone: "Lord, give me this water, that I may not thirst" (Jn 4:15). This right of every person to hear the Gospel is clearly stated by St. Paul. Tireless in his preaching, he looks upon his work of proclaiming the Gospel as a duty, because he understood its universal significance: "For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). Every man and woman should be able to say, like him, that "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us" (Eph 5:2). Furthermore, every man and women should be able to feel drawn into an intimate and transforming relationship which the proclamation of the Gospel creates between us and Christ: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). To give others the possibility of having a similar experience requires that someone be sent to proclaim it: "How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rm 10:14 which repeats Is 52:1).

We can therefore understand how every one of the Church's actions has an essential evangelizing character and must never be separated from the duty to help others encounter Christ in faith, the primary goal of evangelization. If as a Church, "we bring people only knowledge, ability or technical skill and tools, we bring them too little."The original reason for evangelization is the love of Christ which seeks to bring everyone to eternal salvation. The one desire of genuine evangelizers is to give freely what they have freely received: "From the very origins of the Church the disciples of Christ strove to convert men to faith in Christ as the Lord; not, however, by the use of coercion or of devices unworthy of the Gospel, but by the power, above all, of the word of God."

The mission of the Apostles and its continuation in the primitive Church remain the basic model for evangelization at all times as a mission often marked by martyrdom, which is witnessed not only at the beginning of the history of Christianity but also in the last century, and even in our own times. Martyrdom gives credibility to those who bear witness; they do not seek power or gain, but give their very lives for Christ. They show the world the defenceless yet powerful love for humanity, which is given to those who follow Christ to the point of totally surrendering their lives, as Jesus proclaimed: "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (Jn 15:20).

However, erroneous beliefs unfortunately exist which limit the duty to proclaim the Good News. In fact, "there is today a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective (cf. Mt 28:19). Often it is maintained that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom. From this perspective, it would only be legitimate to present one's own ideas and to invite people to act according to their consciences, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. It is enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in the Church."

Although non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in ways known only to himself,[28] the Church cannot overlook the fact that each person seeks to know the true face of God and to enjoy today the friendship of Jesus Christ, God-with-us. Adhering fully to Christ, the Truth, and becoming a member of his Church does not diminish human freedom, but rather enhances it and leads it to fulfilment through a selfless love and caring for the welfare of all people. What a priceless gift it is to live in the universal embrace of God's friends, which comes from communion with the life-giving flesh and blood of his Son, to receive from him the certainty that our sins are forgiven and to live in the love which is born of faith! The Church desires that everyone should partake of these riches, so that they may have the fullness of truth and the means of salvation "to obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rm 8:21). The Church, who proclaims and transmits the faith, imitates God himself who communicates with humanity by giving his Son, who, in turn, pours out the Holy Spirit so that people can be reborn as children of God.

Evangelization and Church Renewal

The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is "the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the 'mighty works of God', which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel."[29] The Second Vatican Council has strongly taken up the subject of the Church who is evangelized by constant conversion and renewal in order to evangelize the world with credibility.In this regard, the words of Pope Paul VI still have meaning today as he reaffirms the priority of evangelization and reminds the faithful: "It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God's mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame - what St. Paul called 'blushing for the Gospel' - or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?" More than one response has proposed that this subject be specifically treated during the synod's deliberations.

Since her origin, the Church has had to deal with similar difficulties as well as the sinfulness of her members. The story of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) is emblematic of the fact that knowledge of Christ can fail. The two disciples from Emmaus speak of a dead man (cf. Lk 24:21-24) and relate their disappointment and hopelessness. These disciples demonstrate the possibility for the Church in every age to be the bearer of a message that does not give life, but stops short in the death of the Christ who is proclaimed, in the announcers themselves, and, consequently, in the recipients of the announcement also. St. John the Evangelist's account of the Apostles who were fishing (cf. Jn 21.1 to 14) describes a similar experience. Apart from Christ, the disciples' efforts are fruitless. Just as for the disciples of Emmaus, only when the Risen Christ manifests himself to them does their trust and the joy of proclaiming return as the fruits of the work of evangelization. Only in strongly attaching himself to Christ once again, is St. Peter, who had been called "fisher of men" (Lk 5:10), able to successfully cast the nets, trusting in the Lord's words.

What is so painstakingly described in the beginning of the Church has sometimes reoccurred in her history. On many occasions, a weakening of fervour in one's relationship with Christ has adversely affected the calibre of the life of faith and the experience of participating in the Trinitarian life, which is bound to it. For this reason, we cannot forget that the proclamation of the Gospel is primarily a spiritual matter. The need to transmit the faith, which is essentially an ecclesial, communal event and not singly or done alone, should not result from seeking effective communication strategies or in choosing a certain group of recipients - for example, young people - but must look to who is entrusted with this spiritual work. The Church must question herself in this matter. This allows the problem to be approached not in an extrinsic manner but from within, involving the entire life and being of the Church. Many particular Churches request that the Synod determine whether the lack of effects in evangelization today, as well as in catechesis in modern times, is primarily the result of ecclesial and spiritual factors. This concerns the Church's ability to live as a real community, as a true brotherhood and as a Living Body and not simply a human establishment.

In knowing how to maintain the fundamental spiritual character of evangelization, the Church can allow herself to be formed by the action of the Holy Spirit and be conformed to Christ Crucified, who reveals to the world the face of the love of God and communion with him. In so doing, she can become more aware of her vocation as Ecclesia Mater by begetting children for the Lord in transmitting the faith and teaching a love which nurtures her children. At the same time, she fulfills her responsibility to proclaim and bear witness to this Revelation of God and gather her people scattered throughout the world, thereby fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy which the Church Fathers understood as addressed to her, "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities" (Is 54:2, 3 ).

Culled from - http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html