The New Evangelization:The Fields are Ripe, ready for Harvest
By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development.... Be not afraid!" Pope John Paul II
In October of 1978, Pope John Paul II stepped out on to the balcony in St. Peters Square and signaled his missionary vocation. One of the chief architects of the Second Vatican Council (a missionary Council) and the one whom many observers claim was primarily responsible for writing the document on the missionary call of the Church in the Modern World entitled, "Joy and Hope" (Gaudium et Spes)), this Missionary Pope has unceasingly proclaimed and embodied its message.
In and through his pontificate, a new missionary moment is now underway.
From the beginning of his service to the Church and the world into which she is sent to carry forward in time the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, Pope John Paul has emphasized the missionary nature of the Church and the missionary calling of every baptized Christian. His entire pontificate has become associated with a phrase that he first introduced on March 9, 1983. While speaking to Latin American bishops gathered in Haiti, he called for "a new evangelization: new in its ardor, its methods, and expressions."
His work is about this "New Evangelization", which has both an internal and an external dynamic. It must become our work as well.
In calling for a "New Evangelization", John Paul revealed his profound spiritual discernment and prophetic insight. The Church that he leads is in serious need of this "New Evangelization" within. From the desperate need for clergy reform to the dire need for an authentic catechesis of the faithful, she is in a weakened state. That is why he has penned more letters than any Pope in history and presided over the promulgation of a Catechism. We need to be honest, many Catholics do not understand what the faith they profess every week at the Liturgy truly means for their daily, real lives. They have little grasp of the demands that it rightly makes upon how they live - as they say, "24/7". There is instead a radical separation between faith and life - the very danger that the Council-and this Pope-has repeatedly warned about.
Many of the faithful are in need of a personal, life changing conversion to the God who called them at Baptism and still invites them to be made new in Jesus Christ. This Pope regularly expounds upon and laments this separation between faith and life. In his "Letter to Families" he puts it simply: "There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual' life with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular life', that is, life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture." Yet, there is.
Only a "New Evangelization" can bring about the conversion that is needed.
Yet, even in this weakened state, this Church is called "to the world". She is called to a unique transforming role that only the Body of Christ can serve in every age. In the Third Millennium, the mission is into many cultures that have become de-Christianized. The "Lay Members of Christ's Faithful" (the title of another extraordinary letter this Pope authored) are to be the primary agents of changing these cultures. This call is the external dynamic of the "New Evangelization". Yet, these new missionaries will be ineffective in the task without what the pope calls "a totally integrated formation."
The whole Church is first in need of conversion - of encountering the Lord - and then of spiritual and doctrinal formation, including formation in the Church's social teaching, which provides the path to authentic human liberation for all men and women and every culture. Any of the faithful (lay or clergy) who engage in the mission of this "New Evangelization" to the broader culture, must lead "holy" lives. This holiness does not involve a separation from the secular world but rather a call to be so given over to God in order that one can actually be sent into this world to carry on the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. We must, in a sense, become what we profess.
Pope John Paul has written more than any Pope in history. I had the privilege of studying this body of teaching under those who are dedicated to him and this "new evangelization." I believe that if we asked him what is most important about them he would say, "That they be lived!". His ardent desire is that what is contained in these encyclical and apostolic letters come alive in our lives so that we can be the kind of Christians who promote authentic human liberation in the contemporary culture.
St. Paul wrote to the early Christians at Corinth "You your selves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts". (2Cor. 3:2)
The "New Evangelization" calls us to become "Living Letters.".
The West is desperately in need of this "new evangelization". If we respond to both the internal and the external dynamic of this invitation, it will lead to what the Pope has called a "new springtime" of faith in the Third Christian millennium. It will also give rise to the integration of faith and life. We will be a people who live what we profess and demonstrate the "unity of life" that Christianity, rightly understood and correctly lived, demands of all who follow in the footsteps of the One who still loves this world. When this kind of lived faith increases within our Church, the influence of the Church will increase and she will again become the revitalizing force in Western culture.
In an encyclical letter entitled "Mission of the Redeemer" Pope John Paul distinguished this "New Evangelization" from the Church's traditional mission work, which is directed towards "...persons or groups who do not yet believe in Christ . . . and whose culture has not yet been influenced by the Gospel...." He noted that this "New Evangelization" is directed toward cultures "where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel."
This "New Evangelization", calls for the missionary participation of every Christian. It is directed specifically toward those living in formerly Christian countries in need of hearing the very Gospel they still purport to profess a nominal belief in. It is directed toward entire cultures as well as to individuals. It calls for a "Christianization" of the culture both within the Church (through new catechesis, including moral doctrine and Church social teaching) as well as the culture of the world into which the Church is called. Only renewed and reformed missionaries can effectively engage the mission to the broader human culture.
The pope repeatedly linked this new evangelization to the Third Millennium. In a letter directed to the West, concerning the coming of this millennium, he wrote "vast sectors of contemporary civilization and culture, of politics and economics" need to be evangelized. "The more the West is becoming estranged from its Christian roots, the more it is becoming missionary territory... The "New Evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture.... For this to happen, it is necessary to inculturate preaching in such a way that the gospel is proclaimed in the language and the culture of its hearers. At the same time, however, it must not be forgotten that the Paschal mystery of Christ, the Supreme manifestation of the infinite God within the finitude of history, is the only valid point of reference for all of humanity on its pilgrimage in search of an authentic unity and true peace." (John Paul II, Ecclesia in America)
We now stand in the Third Millennium and in a Western world that desperately needs to hear the Good News. In the Gospel of St. John we read these words from the Lord "I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest" These words have a unique application today. We live in a new missionary age. Every one of us, no matter our state in life, vocation, and job -or even perceived abilities or limitations- are the missionaries of the moment. The "New Evangelization" is both for the Church and for the culture into which she is now sent. The fields of our age include every aspect of human culture, education, the arts, policy and politics, economics and development.
This is the turf of the "New Evangelization" and we are the ones called into the fields that are ripe, ready for harvest.
Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon, who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is a co-founder of the Your Catholic Voice Movement and the founder of Common Good.
Your Catholic Voice Foundation
http://www.ycvf.org VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President, 757 546-9580
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