Friday 10 August 2012

The New Evangelization

By Artur Suski, S.J.

The phrase “The New Evangelization” has been around for quite some time, and it seems to have originated at some point during the pontificate of the late Pope John Paul II. I have been pondering about the exact meaning of this phrase for a while, especially as to how it relates to my soon-to-be ministry to youth and young adults. So, how are we to understand “The New Evangelization”?

The first thing that undoubtedly comes to mind is that it is new because there has already been an initial evangelization movement, in which those that have never heard of Jesus were introduced to him and the Gospel. The novelty of this new evangelization is that it tries to evangelize a culture or a society that is already familiar with Jesus and the Gospel. This society, however, has for the most part embraced many of the values of the Gospel, yet it has left Christ behind as well as some of his more demanding teachings.

The question is then how to re-evangelize, to “put on the new man” (Eph 4:24)? The following are a few humble insights into the matter:

1. The New Evangelization must, above all, be Christ-centred. People “know” about Christianity; they have heard about Jesus, yet they really know nothing about him. If only they were really shown the Jesus of the Gospels, and the living Jesus that comes to meet us! Jesus is awesome and lovable! The New Evangelization must put much effort into familiarizing people with the person of Jesus. It is not enough to simply present the Church’s doctrines and dogmas. These are undoubtedly important, but do you think that this will catch people’s attention? It is Jesus, who he is and what he did and does that catches people.

Think of St. Peter after Pentecost and the sermon that captivated so many people. He preached Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This should be our starting and end point; the Alpha and Omega. Starting from ecology, social justice or other topics may have its benefits, especially to make connections with people who have otherwise no contact with the Church. Nevertheless, in these circumstances we should not be shy to share why we are concerned for the earth, the destitute and the poor – our source is the living water, which is Christ.

2. It must also emphasize the importance of silence and a personal encounter with Jesus. Look around you. What do you see? A noisy world, a world that intentionally blocks out the interior life. We are always “plugged in” in some way so to numb our inner struggles. Silence has no place in the contemporary culture, and this is a problem because God speaks to the heart in silence: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). We must introduce young people to silence and inner reflection, for the Lord moves us within and we must be sensitive to these movements. The Apostles came to Jesus and asked him “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1-4). Do we provide enough instruction on prayer? Do we teach our youth how to pray?

3. It must engage young people in works of charity. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mtt 7:21). If it is true that “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:16), then God will also be found – and God will also find us – in works of charity. Do we encourage this? How do we facilitate it for people in our parishes and in our youth groups? 

Three short points. I invite others to pitch in and add their own suggestions to "the New Evangelization", as labourers in the vineyard help each other bring souls to Christ!

1 comment:

  1. I wish you could teach me to do what you do. What you do is at this point in time the most important work of the church-work with young peo0ple who are leaving the church in droves. See this article by Fr Reese.

    By the way your point #1 means small group Bible study. There you get "to know Christ Jesus" and you love one another.