Evangelization seems to be one of those new Catholic “buzzwords” that has come up for our amazement and to help us be current when we attend parties with our friends. Let’s not, however, be too hasty with our thinking.
Evangelization is hardly a new idea in the Christian Community; as a matter of fact, it was Jesus Himself who gave the command — yes, command — to the apostles when He ascended back to heaven. The account of the story can be found in Matthew’s Gospel:
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20)
Two major ideas emerge from this stunning experience. First, Jesus told the apostles to go and “make disciples of all nations”; secondly, Jesus reminded them that He would be “with you always, until the end of the age.”
It was at the Ascension of Jesus that the true nature and identity of the Church become so evident: discipleship and the unity of Christ with His Church.
Evangelization is part of the adventurous nature of the Church. Our understanding of how the Church exists depends upon our understanding of the proclamation of the good news and our willingness to assume the urgency for its life in the world in which we live. Hence, the great adventure.
Briefly stated, evangelization involves the zealous proclamation of the Gospel in order to bring others to Christ and His Church. Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote, in his memorable landmark encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi (Dec. 8, 1975): “Evangelizing means to bring the good news into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new, ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new’ (Rv 21:5). But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by baptism, and by lives lived according to the Gospel.” (18)
Once again, Blessed Pope Paul VI moves the Church forward with a strong sense of proclamation of the truth of the Gospel in an age of secularist beliefs and practices.
As the pope teaches, evangelization includes three distinctive elements:
1. interior conversion to Christ and His Church;
2. such conversion affects not only the individual person, but also the entire culture; and
3. as a result, renewing and reforming this culture and its institutions to make them Christian and, for our terms, Catholic.
A major portion of our Christmas preparation this year should center, of course, on the Incarnation; but could we widen our perspective of the “birth of Christ” to include how well we are teaching and living the “presence of Christ” in our world? St. Francis of Assisi is often quoted as telling people to go out and preach the good ews — occasionally using words. May you follow His command to go out and evangelize!