Theology and Methodology
An indispensable feature of the new evangelization is the universal call to personally share Christ with others. “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church,” St. John Paul II stated, “can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (Mission of the Redeemer, #3).
The Vatican II Council Decree, The Apostolate of the Laity, teaches:
“The Church’s mission is concerned with the salvation of men; and men win salvation through the grace of Christ and faith in him. The apostolate of the Church therefore, and of each of its members, aims primarily at announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ and the grace of Christ…. The true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw them towards the faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, and incite them to a more fervent life” (6).
What the Church teaches therefore is that evangelization is not for specialists but is intended for every believer. Nobody is left sitting on the bench, to use a sports metaphor. Everyone gets to play! Perhaps an even more relevant way of expressing it given our current times, would be to use the alarm proclaimed on a battleship, “all hands on deck!” St. John Paul II further underlines this point in The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful:
“Certainly the command of Jesus: ‘Go and preach the Gospel’ always maintains its vital value and its ever-pressing obligation. Nevertheless, the present situation not only of the world but also of many parts of the Church absolutely demands that the word of Christ receive a more ready and generous obedience. Every disciple is personally called by name: no disciple can withhold making a response: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel’ (1 Cor 9: 16) (33).”
Do you remember the disregarded title of the People of God this side of heaven – “The Church Militant”? If truth were told, we are in a fierce war for the salvation of the people we know and love. The way to win the war is to live as devoted disciples of Jesus inviting others to personally know, love, and follow Him. Those who respond to “the riches of his mercy” do so by laying down their weapons of rebellion and self-reliance and surrendering to the One, “who for our sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14).
The universal call of evangelization means that bishops, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, and lay folks are all called to share with others their own experience of the love of Jesus. But how you ask? I haven’t been trained to evangelize nor do I know how to work with other Catholics on a parish-evangelizing course like Discovering Christ. That’s another reason we call evangelization today the “new evangelization”. Most of us have never invited anyone to a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and membership in the Church, nor invited them to some evangelizing event like Discovering Christ. Evangelization – sharing our faith in Christ one on one - is totally new to most of us.
In the first two parts of the ChristLife series – Discovering and Following Christ – the goal is to help the participants to personally encounter Jesus as Lord and to grow as his disciples. With that foundation we now turn to the joy-filled adventure of Sharing Christ which, as Pope Benedict XVI teaches, springs from our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus :
"Before being sent to evangelize, they would have to "be" with Jesus, establishing a personal relationship with him. With this foundation, evangelization is no more than a proclamation of what has been experienced and an invitation to enter into the mystery of communion with Christ (cf. 1 John 1:3)” (General Audience, March 22, 2006).
The Lord Jesus commands us to proclaim the good news and gives us the grace to not only obey but to praise Him for the radical privilege of seeing the lives of others changed by his love! Sharing Christ is a practical and doable way of responding to Jesus command. Let’s begin!
For further reading on the call for a New Evangelization, read Characteristics of the New Evangelization by Dave Nodar [link to product in store].