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Evangelical Catholic Pope Francis Says Gospel Needs Witnesses. Are We Witnesses?

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The New Evangelization challenges each one of us to be completely given over to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot be halfway disciples. Jesus continues His redemptive mission through His Body, the Church, of which we are all members. The New Evangelization is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Catholic Church precisely so she can undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world - through you and me! Only a Church which is fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Holy Spirit can carry out such an evangelical mission in the world of this hour. Pope Francis is an evangelical Catholic Pope who is enlisting us in this vital work. Do we hear the call? Are we responding?


VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - The Catholic Church has always taught that every single human being on the face of the earth has a right to hear the liberating Gospel message of Jesus Christ as found in its its fullness within the Church.  All of us, by virtue of being baptized into Jesus Christ, are enlisted in that evangelizing mission, no matter what our state in life or vocation.

In order to be able to engage in such a missionary task, many Catholic Christians need to be renewed in their own Baptismal faith. That needs to happen through a personal and transformational encounter with the Risen Lord. In addition, such an encounter needs to be strengthened and secured by solid catechesis on what it means to live as a Catholic Christian. This is what is meant by the New Evangelization.

The New Evangelization challenges each one of us to be completely given over to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot be halfway disciples. Jesus continues His redemptive mission through His Body, the Church, of which we are all members. The New Evangelization is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Catholic Church precisely so she can undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world - through you and me!

Only a Church which is fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Holy Spirit can carry out such an evangelical mission in the world of this hour. Pope Francis is an evangelical Catholic Pope who is enlisting us for this vital work. Do we hear the call? Are we responding? Do we have a dynamic, living relationship with Jesus Christ? Do we know what the Church teaches, embrace it, and make it our own? Is the Holy Spirit truly at work in our lives? 

For years I have proposed to fellow believers that it is time to stop opining over whether we are living in a post-Christian, neo-pagan or post modernist age. Instaed, I suggest that we realize we are living in a Pre-Christian age - and respond to the invitation the Lord has given in calling us for this hour in history. He has sent us into this age to deliver His message of authentic freedom and the fullness of God's Love as revealed in Jesus Christ.

This missionary spirit is alive and well in the Catholic Church. It is alive in the New Ecclesial movements. It is live in the religious communities which are springing up as new shoots in the One Vine and the renewed ones which are rediscovering their charism. It is alive on the authentically Catholic Colleges and Universities which are forming the new saints, missionaries and martyrs for the Third Millennium. Some of them are new, others are being renewed.

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether the missionary spirit is alive in us? 

In his second letter to the Christians in Corinth St Paul gave a firm direction and then asked a blunt question: Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? -unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. (2 Cor. 14:5)

We need to ask ourselves that question. Then we need to consider whether we actually view our own lives as missionary?

All of us can - and should - burn with the same missionary fire which animated the great men and women of faith from the very beginning of the Church. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit. When that Holy Spirit is at work in us we cry out those words of the great Apostle Paul "Woe unto me if I do not preach the Gospel." (1 Cor. 9:16)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the liberating message which the whole world of our own age needs to hear. In Jesus Christ we can all be made new! (2 Cor. 5:17, Rev 21:5) The West is staggering under a new expression of paganism which offers the old slavery of sin and despair.  The Church of Jesus Christ offers Life and Freedom!

What the West needs is conversion, the kind which only comes through encountering the Savior of the whole world.  Jesus Christ is that Savior and He is alive! He lives His Risen Life in the hearts of believers who choose to live in the Heart of His Church for the sake of the world. God still loves the world and he still sends His Son! (John 3:16)  loves.

Those of us who have the privilege of being Catholic Christians have the highest of obligations. The words of Jesus, To those to whom much is given, much more will be required! should have a special resonance for us.  (Luke 12:48)

Our mission field is our own back yard. If the West really is pre-Christian, let us not waste any more time bemoaning this fact. Instead let us enter into the new missionary age which stretches out before us and get to work.

This week, Pope Francis addressed the Pontifical Council on the New Evangelization in Rome. He spoke of the new Evangelization and underscored its importance. He reminded all of us that we must point to Jesus and what is essential in the Gospel in our efforts.

Once again, we have been given our marching orders by Pope Francis. Now, what will we do in response?

I offer below some excerpts from his latest message to the Pontifical Council members below.

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Pope Francis Speaks to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization

Many people have distanced themselves from the Church. It is wrong to shift the blame from one side to the other; indeed, there is no point in speaking of guilt. There are responsibilities in the history of the Church and its members, as well as in certain ideologies and individuals. As children of the Church, we must continue on the path of the Second Vatican Council, divest ourselves of useless and harmful things, of the false securities of this world that encumber the Church and damage its true essence.

What we need, especially in these times, are credible witnesses who can, through their life and words, make the Gospel visible, awake the attraction to Jesus Christ, for the beauty of God. There is a need for Christians who can show God's mercy and tenderness towards every creature, and his compassion for every creature.

We all know that the crisis of contemporary humanity is not superficial but deep. For this reason, whilst it calls for courage to go against the current to convert from idols to the one true God, the new evangelization cannot but use the language of mercy, which includes deeds and attitudes even more than of words.

In today's humanity, the Church says, 'Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and burdened, and you will find rest for your souls (cf. Mt, 11:28-30). Come to Jesus. He alone has the words of eternal life. Whoever has encountered Christ, like the Samaritan woman at the well, cannot keep this experience to themselves without feeling the desire to share it, and bring others to Jesus.

The New Evangelization is a renewed movement towards those who have lost their faith and the deeper meaning of life. This energy is part of Christ's great mission to bring life to the world, [and] the Father's love to humanity. The Son of God 'came out ' of his divine status to meet us. The Church is part of this movement. Every Christian is called to reach out to others, to engage in dialogue with those who do not think like us, those who have another faith, or have no faith.

Meeting everyone because we all have in common the fact that we were created in the image and likeness of God [means] we can reach out to all, without fear and without giving up our own affiliation.
For this reason the Church is the house where the doors are always open not only to welcome everyone in to breathe love and hope, but also so we can take this love and hope outside. The Holy Spirit urges us to leave our enclosure and guides us to the peripheries of humanity.

In the Church, all this is not left to chance or improvisation. It requires shared commitment to a pastoral plan that goes to the essential and is well centered on the essential, that is, Jesus Christ. There is no point in spreading ourselves thin in so many secondary or superfluous things; we must instead focus on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, his mercy, his love and loving as he has loved us.

We need a plan moved by the creativity and imagination of the Holy Spirit, that will also leads us to tread new paths, with courage, and not fossilize. In this context, I would like to emphasize the importance of catechesis, as a moment of evangelisation. Pope Paul VI acknowledged it in Evangelii nuntiandi (cf n. 44).

From there came the great catechetical movement that brought forth a renewal [designed] to overcome the split between the Gospel and the culture and illiteracy of our times in matters of faith. I have mentioned several times a fact that has impressed me in my ministry, namely the children I have met who do not even know how to make the Sign of the Cross!

The work of catechists is a valuable service to the new evangelization." Indeed, "it is important for parents to be the first catechists, the first educators in faith in their own families, by their witness and their words.

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