Can a Catholic evangelise?
Whenever I’m reading a book like this a chapter at a time, I have a tendency to prepare by reading the sub-headings of the chapter. I think it might be the years at uni or some kind of achievement-oriented drive where sub-headings allow me to measure my progress as I make my way through the chapter.
So when I flicked through Chapter 2 of Divine Renovation entitled “Rebuild my house” and the sub-headings were The Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, I’ve got to admit I felt like I was in for a history lesson on the papacy.
What I didn’t realise was that it was going to be a history lesson around evangelisation. This chapter opens up the development of language around evangelisation since the Second Vatican Council.
Very quickly it becomes evident that there is a consistent and developing language across these four popes. Below are just a few examples:
“Evangelisation will also always contain – as the foundation, centre, and at the same time, summit of its dynamism – a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.” Pope Paul VI, EN, no. 22
“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” Pope John Paul II, RM, no.3
“Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep Him for themselves, they must proclaim him.” Pope John Paul II, NMI, no. 40
“Your greatest task in evangelisation is therefore to propose a personal relationship with Christ as key to complete fulfilment.” Pope Benedict XVI, address to the bishops of the Philippines
[The goal of evangelisation is] “the realisation of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in the Spirit, thereby leading to an experiencing of His Father and our Father.” Pope Benedict XVI, Lineamenta, no. 11
Fr James Mallon sums this journey up when he says “Evangelisation is essentially kerygmatic and leads to an encounter with the person of Jesus.” I have to admit I thought this language was more common in a protestant setting, but these days I’m starting to hear it everywhere.
It certainly permeates The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and Fr James Mallon also points us to other church documents where this language was developed including Evangelii Nuntiandi, Redemptoris Missio, Novo Millenio Ineunte, the Lineamenta document and the Aparecida document.
What I love the most about this chapter is that it shows the beautiful complementarity that exists across these popes when they speak of evangelisation. It shows the way God used each of these popes to bring the Church to a renewed understanding of evangelisation, the mandate of all who have been baptised.
Teresa McGrath is the Youth Project
Consultant for the Archdiocese of Brisbane,
and heads up the Youth Evangelisation Office.