Week 19, Saturday. Evangelizing Thought of the Day (ETD)

DAILY SEQUENTIAL EXCERPTS from The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith – Instrumentum Laboris:

88. The new evangelization is also the name given to a spiritual reawakening and the reanimation of a process of conversion which the Church asks of herself, all her communities and all the baptized. Consequently, this reality is not the concern of well-defined regions only, but the means to explain everywhere the teaching of the Apostles and put those teachings into practice in our day. Through the new evangelization, the Church seeks to insert the very original and specific character of her teachings into today's world and everyday discussion.
She wants to be the place where God can be experienced even now, and where, under the guidance of the Spirit of the Risen Christ, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the gift of faith. The Gospel is always a new proclamation of salvation, accomplished by Jesus Christ, to make every human life share in the mystery of God and his life of love, thereby opening human life to a future of hope, which is inspiring and trustworthy. Emphasizing the Church's call to undertake a new evangelization at this moment in history means intensifying the Church's missionary activity so as to respond fully to the Lord's mandate. (Instrumentum Laboris, “Chapter 2: Time for a New Evangelization,” paragraph 88)

Create a clean heart in me, O God. (Psalm 51:12, Mass).

Almighty ever-living God, whom,
taught by the Holy Spirit,
we dare to call our Father,
bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
which you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

The final paragraphs of “A Definition and Its Meaning (regarding The New Evangelization)” also bring chapter 2 (“Time for a New Evangelization”) of the Instrumentum Laboris to a close. As one expects in concluding words, summary and emphasis color the presentation. Yet facets of the New Evangelization emerge as if to suggest that The New Evangelization is much bigger than anticipated. The caution here though is that there is much ‘out there’ on The New Evangelization. Some of what is ‘out there’ is frankly irritating as some are attempting to use the term, The New Evangelization, for any and everything to advance an agenda that has little to do with what the Holy Spirit began to stir in Pope Paul VI and continued through Pope John Paul II and is now a clear focus of Pope Benedict XVI. While it is hoped that everyone will become familiar with all the documents of The New Evangelization, paragraphs 88 and 89 can serve as a quick introduction to the key dimensions that constitute The New Evangelization. We’ll address paragraph 88 today and paragraph 89 tomorrow.
Paragraph 88 begins by ‘adding’ another dimension to the definition and meaning of The New Evangelization: “spiritual reawakening and the reanimation of a process of conversion.” The Instrumentum Laboris has certainly addressed the necessity of conversion (metanoia) in daily Christian living and as a constitutive element of The New Evangelization. Yet “reawakening” and “reanimation” presume that an ‘awakening’ and an ‘animation’ have, in fact, occurred. This is not to call into question the validity of the working of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Grace in the life of an individual believer. Yet for many there is a disconnect between the awakening and animation of the Spirit and daily living. Many good people that are still participating in Sunday Mass hold that their spiritual lives begin and end at the door of the Church ... which is why in some cases it is important to be the state of Grace while moving through a Church parking lot on Sunday!
A prevailing cultural wind of “I’m not getting involved” results in affecting the spiritual life causing a clear break between the hour or so on Sunday and the remaining 167 hours throughout the week (This is another dilemma that needs attention - the Sabbath is to be A DAY - 24 hours of “resting in the Lord” - not minimally fulfilling an obligation of 1 hour in Church and ‘getting it out of the way’ to go about other ‘things.’). What is the cause of the disconnect? While it is a question that must be pondered, it will take much more than this blog to adequately respond. Suffice it to say for now, there is certainly responsibility each believer has for Gifts of Grace lovingly entrusted to him or her by Our Lord. On the other hand, we have to inquire how the Church has prepared people for the ‘awakening’ and ‘animation.’
Initially, we might inquire: what is unique about ‘religion class’ in our Religious Education programs and Catholic schools? In many places, ‘religion class’ is no different in content and pedagogy than a history, social studies, philosophy or world/culture heritage course. Are ‘religion classes’ ‘taught’ in the mode of catechesis (recall earlier blog entry) that “hands-on” the Person Jesus Christ that the listener chooses, in Grace, to respond to Jesus’ desire to encounter her or him? Is Jesus’ command to convert daily (metanoia) and to believe (a radical trust in HIM, that HIS words and deeds are the direction for life and none other) presented and unpacked for the would-be disciples of Jesus in the here and now? What about opportunities for adults to gather and continue being formed through Sacred study in the ways of the Spirit? It is sad that many, decrying the closing of parishes and Catholic schools, rarely see the loss concerning anything related or connected to the Person, Jesus Christ. Loss of a soccer field, sports program, a building to meet for various activities, even nostalgia - all good in themselves - are the object of disappointment, hurt and anger in the school or parish closing. But these miss the central point of the life-giving and life-changing encounter with the Person, Jesus Christ. These ‘goods’ can assist in coming to the Lord as the world is replete with the “seeds of the Logos.” But this also demands that these activities have a very clear focus and purpose: Jesus Christ, period.
Paragraph 88 raises another dimension of the work of The New Evangelization: “Through the new evangelization, the Church seeks to insert the very original and specific character of her teachings into today’s world and everyday discussion.” Many would respond that such is laudable and necessary given the cultural narcissism metastasizing exponentially as a cancer on life. Yet once again it presupposes that there are sufficient disciples - lay, religious and ordained - who are properly formed to speak the authentic teaching of Jesus in “today’s world and everyday discussion.” When competent disciples are present at work’s water cooler, sports field or supermarket and can respond gently and charitably to the inaccuracies and falsehoods expressed about Jesus and His Body the Church, that is a moment of The New Evangelization. This suggests that specific points of Christology, Sacred Scripture, Ecclesiology, Dogmatic theology and Apologetics - all tailored to and in service of The New Evangelization are sorely needed.
Finally (not that paragraph 88 or for that matter any other content of the Instrumentum Laboris has been exhausted), paragraph 88 offers a very interesting insight: “The Gospel is always a new proclamation of salvation, accomplished by Jesus Christ, to make every human life share in the mystery of God and his life of love, thereby opening human life to a future of hope, which is inspiring and trustworthy.” This, in my reading, is quite rich. Minimally it does raise a caution about The New Evangelization: avoid the program mentality. How often we have embraced ‘renewal programs’ in our dioceses and parishes? Well intentioned? Absolutely! Yet the program mentality - 1 size fits all - does not work when it comes to the life of the Spirit. Yes there are aspects of the Spirit’s life that all believers have and must have in common. Yet to infer at the diocesan level or parish level that this or that ‘packaged program’ is the answer, forget it. The authentic grunt work of The New Evangelization is not to look for a program, but to meet one another in the ‘Courtyard of the Gentiles,’ tap one another on the shoulder and give a word from The Word that invites encounter, conversion and belief.

  • Much has been presented in today’s ETD. What point has ‘grabbed’ you in paragraph 88?
  • How are you going to run with what (Who) has grasped you?

1 comment:

  1. “The Gospel is always a new proclamation of salvation, accomplished by Jesus Christ..."

    Follow wherever He goes.