Written on: October 11, 2013
This article originally appeared in the Malone Telegram, Malone,NY
Evangelization is the proclamation of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. Catholics may not immediately recognize evangelization as part of Catholic life, for traditionally we have lived our faith quietly through attendance at Mass, works of charity and adherence to God’s commandments.
Over the past two or three generations, many Catholics (and Christians of other denominations) have left the practice of faith. We live in a “post-modern” milieu where the foundations of society, culture and religion have been called into question. Some feel free to accept or reject values and beliefs on the basis of personal interpretation and preferences. Many adults have never been introduced to Jesus, and as a result, they and their children miss out on the precious gift of faith.
Jesus Christ is the center of Christian faith. The Son of God became one of us, while retaining his divinity in its completeness. Jesus was at once fully human and fully divine, an unrepeatable gift to humankind. Jesus gave his life for the salvation of all people; through his death and resurrection, he offers eternal life to those who believe in him.
Jesus was the first and greatest evangelizer, showing through his words and deeds the unlimited, unconditional love of God for all of humanity. Jesus answers our deepest questions, those of meaning and ultimate destiny.
The New Evangelization seeks to encourage and support the deepening of faith by presenting the person of Jesus, through whom the love and mercy of God are made known. The New Evangelization is especially directed to awakening faith in persons who do not know Jesus and those baptized Catholics who no longer who practice their faith. It is not new doctrine or teaching; rather a new way of telling the “Great Story of Jesus” that will engage and inspire people of today.
The New Evangelization takes many forms. At World Youth Day celebrations, Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have gathered with young people from throughout the world to pray, celebrate the Sacraments and socialize, while focusing on the love of Jesus.
Through actions such as washing the feet of youth in a Rome detention center and blessing a drug rehab center in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis has shown Christ’s love for the poor and marginalized and has reminded us that we are all members of the same human family.
On the personal level, the New Evangelization can be as simple as beginning a conversation about faith with a friend, neighbor or co-worker. If you know someone who has stopped coming to Church (perhaps in your own family), invite them to come with you. If someone asks how you maintain hope through difficult times, don’t hesitate to share how you feel God’s presence. Kind deeds to others make the love of Christ real and tangible. When we share God’s love, strangers become friends and belonging replaces isolation.
The Year of Faith will soon conclude, but the call to evangelize, to introduce others to Jesus through word and action, will continue forever.
Sr. Barbara Schiavoni is Pastoral Associate for Malone Catholic Parishes in Northern New York. Sr. Barbara especially enjoys her ministry with adults and school-aged children who are entering the Church through RCIA. She is completing her Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry through Christ the King Seminary. In her free time she enjoys downhill skiing and sailing.