Pope Paul VI wrote, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to Evangelize.” Evangelii Nuntiando
St. John Paul II wrote, “I sense that the moment has come to commit all the Church’s energies to a new evangelization…No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” Redemptioris Missio
Evangelization has been at the heart of the Catholic Church ever since Jesus rose from the dead and called his disciples to “go make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19). The Good News of Jesus Christ is meant to be shared. Even before Jesus rose from the dead, when he called his first disciples, Jesus gave them a glimpse of their primary goal, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Evangelizing, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with other people, is foundational to the Church and to who we are as Catholics.
However, for many people, “Evangelization” is a daunting word. All too often it becomes a word meant for someone else. Many are content to leave Evangelization to missionaries, priests or religious. This attitude or view is not sufficient because it is not God’s intention! Plus, it does not take into account our calling and identity as baptized Catholics. As God’s beloved children, each of us is called to evangelize — to share with others the very love of God we have experienced. In this way, we become what Pope Francis calls “Missionary Disciples.”
St. John Paul II coined the phrase, “New Evangelization.” He understood the Church was living in a new context. Western culture once steeped in Christian values and beliefs has largely become de-Christianized. Moreover, evangelization is “new” in so much as we allow ourselves to be re-evangelized. According to St. John Paul II, many Catholics were never taught or catechized to live out their faith in and through a personal relationship with Jesus. Many people know about Jesus, but few have fallen in love with Jesus. Thus, the new evangelization calls us to rediscover within ourselves the beauty and joy of the Gospel of Jesus and from that rediscovery begin to shine the light of God’s love to the world.
In his book, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes, “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples…the new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized…Each Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus… Each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are… What has helped you to live and given you hope is what you also need to communicate to others.”
The Office of Evangelization seeks to promote the new evangelization, helping all people come to know Jesus and to share His love. May we encounter Jesus and embrace our baptismal identities so that we might live as missionary disciples – sharing Jesus to a world in desperate need of the truth, mercy and love of our resurrected Lord!
– Deacon Steve Olmstead, Office of Evangelization