A job description might properly define EVANGELIZATION “as the spreading of the good news”, however it does not take very long to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of Evangelization as we review it as it is scripted through the old and new testaments and we become aware that it encompasses the profound true meaning of our Faith and the fundamental responsibility and purpose/meaning of life. Ironically the historic study of “Wisdom” from the beginning of mankind through the revelation of “Sacred Wisdom“ in holy scripture and papal writings throughout the history of the church spoke about the spirit of Evangelization. However, since the Second Vatican Council several popes predominately focused on the importance of Evangelization. Specifically, Pope John Paul VI wrote EVANGELII NUNTIANDI in 1975, Saint John Paul II who wrote REDEMPTORIS MISSIIO in 1990, and Pope Frances wrote EVANGELII GAUDIUM in 2013. Though Saint John Paul II was the most prolific writer in history on Evangelization, all three Popes were quite aware of the significant challenge they had as leaders to spread Jesus Christ and his gospel throughout the world. Specifically, M. Kelly and they knew the world had approached a population of 7 billion and that was almost incomprehensible. One could imagine this number from a different perspective of a small town with 100 people. That is as if the whole world was reduced for this analogy to 100 people proportionally the world would look sort of like this. About 57 of the 100 would be from Asia, 21 of the 100 would be from Europe, 9 of the 100 would be from Africa, and only 8 of the 100 would be from North America with South America following shortly behind with 5. Further delineating these numbers, 51 of the 100 would be women and 49 would be man. 6 of the 100 people would own/control more than 50% of the world’s wealth (this research was duplicated several years ago by the writer Og Mandino’ in his book, University of Success articulates similar figures from his research). Additional analysis tells us that one of the 100 is about to be born, one of the 100 is about to die, and only seven of the 100 have been to college. 33 would be Christian and 67 would be non-Christian, 80 would be living in substandard housing (believe it or not 92% of the people living in our world have never sat on a commode), 31 would be unable to read or write. 24 would have no electricity, 71 would have no access to the Internet, 39 of the 100 in this town we live on less than two dollars a day. Generally speaking, 1/3 of the world’s population is dying from lack of bread, 1/3 of the world’s population is dying from lack of justice, and 1/3 of the world’s population is dying from overeating. This is the big picture of our world and the real challenge of Evangelization.
The first Pope to concentrate on the importance of Evangelization was the late Pope John Paul VI who eloquently stated that every Christian is just as much of a missionary to their fellowman because they have truly arrived at such an in-depth understanding of the love God for each of us in Jesus Christ. It becomes imperative for all of us to spread the good news with enthusiasm (this word is derived from Greek.. and it emphatically means., God within each of us). Pope John Paul VI summarizes in his encyclical stating that his core message is a mandate for all to spread the good news of the Risen Jesus Christ. Saint. John Paul II continues in his encyclical Redemptio Missio to further explain the “New Evangelization“, which is recognized by Saint. John Paul II to be the most important for all of us to experience a personal conversion to the Risen Christ which is depicted so well in the writings of Saint Paul the Apostle. This is why genuine witnessing to Christ is actually our call to holiness which “completes the circle” with understanding the pervasive significant purpose of Evangelization. Specifically, this means that Evangelization is that initially for each of us so that we personally authentically, and profoundly become evangelized as a Christian who now is committed to personal holiness. As we experience this Evangelization as part of our calling and further share it with others we progress in our holiness toward our ultimate goal of sainthood!
Saint John Paul II initiated the “New Evangelization“ to all in 1983 when he visited the people of Haiti and addressed all the Bishops of Latin America. He further stated that he had unveiled his encyclical with the sole responsibility of always spreading the fullness of the gospel of the Risen Jesus Christ. When Saint Pope John Paul II actually became Pope, he profoundly committed himself to the sharing of the Risen Jesus Christ by way of Evangelization in such an accelerated manner that he traveled the world more than any other pope, as a matter fact traveled the world more than all previous popes put together!
We are cognizant of the turbulent times in which the early church was expose to intense and vicious persecution of disciples and Christians in that they faced torture and death on a daily basis. In spite of this, all of the disciples and first Christians embraced the Risen Jesus Christ, as we aspire to. They became fearless and each found solace in his love, peace, and joy. Furthermore, they rejected violence and aggressiveness as well as passive and passive aggressiveness since these too are derived from violent-like aggressiveness and this misbehavior continually seeks “to get even”. The early Christians sought to replace these negative intentions and behaviors with a positive assertiveness which is well articulated later in this writing as one transition from the darkness/negative to the positive/assertive, with profound belief in that realization of the Risen Jesus Christ. When one makes this transition they experience the energy of the Evangelization which now becomes a treasure allowing each of us to experience the peace of the Risen Jesus Christ transforming each of us, it’s further allows for the first time a deep understand and awareness of the true meaning and purpose of life.
Our present Pope Francis begins his encyclical by stating “the joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this exhortation he wished to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of Evangelization marked by this joy”, which quickly became a new marker for the church’s journey for years to come. Pope Francis continues throughout this great encyclical to remind all of us of the fundamental importance of Evangelization. He further reminds us of the disappointing current research which reveals only 23% of Catholics attend Mass once a week and teenagers/college student’s attendance is about 15%. He goes on to state that the New Evangelization is a call to a personal Metanoia/conversion for all and this personal Metanoia subsequently becomes the sign of the arrival of the “new era of Evangelization” and this will gain its full energy and commitment as a New Evangelization.
In our parish council there are several committees: communication, education, family life, evangelization, social action, welcoming, stewardship, and worship. There is no doubt that all of these committees are important and have value. As I reviewed current writings and understanding, and further researched, meditate on the scriptures and the writings by our three Popes, I experienced a confusing and painful “dark night of the soul” for several days, which fortunately opened up with a new awareness that there is a trilogy that represents three very important and fundamental parts of spirituality that are intrinsic to the life of our parish. They are Worship, financial integrity with fiduciary responsibility, and Evangelization. As I further reflected on these I came to a very different understand of Evangelization. The profound understanding and imperative for all is to personally become evangelized so that we can move away from the aggressiveness, passivity, and passive aggressive behaviors we have been exposed to and dominate the increasingly problematic interactions we observe in many good people who are pulled away from Evangelization and left with spiritual emptiness. It is so imperative that we genuinely come to this realization that our calling to follow Jesus Christ is that of positive assertiveness, which includes always saying our truth with respect while being honest in all things as well as honesty in our behaviors which equates to responsibility.Furthermore, whether someone is watching us or not we consistently do these things which leads us to have integrity. The new language of assertiveness continues with authenticity (authenticity was so important to Saint John Paul II that he mentions no less than 13 times in his encyclical) and as we become authentic, we almost miraculously arrived at a place of freshness in life known as transparency (no hidden agendas). It is at this place we transition to always speak with courage and this positions us for the next level of action driven by perseverance allowing these attributes to experience metamorphosis and thereby are interwoven into the fabric of our Faith embracing the spirit of the Risen Jesus Christ which forever permeates all our Worship, all our fiscal responsibilities, all our programs, all our services, and most especially all our Evangelization. The early Christians in their Worship embraced the Risen Jesus Christ and became fearless. They then transitioned from the darkness/negative to the positive/assertive profound belief in the realization of the Risen Jesus Christ and experienced the energy of Evangelization which become a treasure, in such a way that no matter what is happening to us we experience the peace of Jesus Christ and profoundly for the first time, we too understand the true meaning and purpose of life. Now we also experience the Risen Christ within our inner worlds as well as outer worlds so eloquently that we too understand why the non-Christians immediately and intensely wanted to experience the Risen Jesus Christ, to experience God, and his spirit now known as the energy of Evangelization. Now we too understand, as did the early Christians, the profound presence of the Risen Christ NOW evident in time/life and for the first time they and we became aware the presence of the Risen Jesus Christ is for all time and eternity!
Our parish council now becomes transformed and fully committed to the New Evangelization in the spirit of the early church as professionally appraised with research, meditation, and prayer. As we referred to the spirit of the Risen Christ as “like-minded”, we are now for the first time experiencing the Persona of Jesus Christ himself as did his disciples and the early Christians. The renowned Catholic theologian and scientist Teilhard de Chardin eloquently captured this spirit as he stated, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in the human experience”. With this spirit, the parish council is led by a “like minded” committed individual who is the pastor or his associate if necessary. He then chooses a “like-minded” individual to fill the first of three primary appointments to the parish council. The first being a “like-minded” person who would be the leader of Worship. This individual would typically demonstrate theology/liturgy training (or be in training). The second like-minded leader would be a fiscal expert, typically a CPA, who exhibits fiduciary responsibilities in all church matters. And lastly, the pastor would choose a “like-minded evangelist” who would be professionally trained in theology/ministry.The first responsibility of this evangelist, or chair of Evangelization, would be to oversee a comprehensive survey/needs assessment which would genuinely identify the authentic needs that are represented by our parishioners and simultaneously communicate a pedagogical and educational process that would identify current and future “like minded parish council members” who have absorbed authentically and genuinely an understanding of the Risen Jesus Christ as represented in the early church. These “like-minded” individuals seek to imitate and absorb into their depths the spirit of the Risen Jesus Christ. Teilhard de Chardin describes love as we understand it in Evangelization when he said: “Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the 2nd time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire”.
-TIm Lynch D.Min, Ph.D