If Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI set the theological groundwork for the new evangelization, Pope Francis is implementing it. Are you ready to evangelize the world?
“Catholic scholars have taken the dynamite of the Church, have wrapped it up in nice phraseology, placed it in an hermetic container and sat on the lid. It is about time to blow the lid off so the Catholic Church may again become the dominant social dynamic force." – Peter Maurin, co-founder with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement
With his new document, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium —The Joy of the Gospel—Pope Francis continues to captivate the world with his radical Gospel message and his vision of Church renewal.
Commentators have been especially receptive towards two of the Pope’s main themes: his scathing criticism of unrestrained capitalism and economic injustice, and his program for Church reform, especially decentralizing Church authority.
But the secular media in particular has missed what is the driving force behind the Pope’s call for justice in the world and renewal in the Church—evangelization. Or, as the subtitle of the document states: “…the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.”
From day one of his election, the secular world—including liberal Catholics dissatisfied with the Pope’s predecessors—has been so enthralled by the Pope’s humble manner, frugal lifestyle, ecumenical gestures, and outreach to the outcast, that they’ve missed the missionary zeal that pervades every aspect of his life, and every page of Evangelii Gaudium. They’ve averted their eyes from the fact that it is Pope Francis’ evangelizing faith that makes him special—and so human—like his namesake St. Francis. It’s the Pope’s faith in Jesus Christ that gives him a heart for the poor, and the zeal to reform the Church. And he wants to share his faith in Jesus Christ with every man, woman and child on earth.
Like the ancient story of the chicken and the egg, it’s impossible to separate Pope Francis’ desire to do good works—help the poor, reach the outcast, enhance the dignity of the women, and so on—from his strong faith and his desire to not only preach the Gospel, but build Christ’s kingdom here on earth—a goal explicitly proclaimed throughout the documents issued from the Second Vatican Council held in the early 1960s. Here is one example from the opening of the council decree Ad Gentes, On the Missionary Activity of the Church:
“In the present state of affairs, out of which there is arising a new situation for mankind, the Church, being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-14), is more urgently called upon to save and renew every creature, that all things may be restored in Christ and all men may constitute one family in Him and one people of God.”
For Pope Francis, a Church that is burdened by bureaucracy and corruption, lukewarm in its faith, and silent about how “the least among us” are mistreated, is betraying Jesus Christ. Only a poor and missionary Church that models Christ’s sacrificial love can be a credible witness to the Gospel.
In Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope calls Catholics to renew the Church by embracing Christ’s cross, in joy and hope, working for the good of the world. This is how the early Christians spread the faith. Their mutual love led Romans to observe: “See how they love one another.” Their commitment to the truth of Jesus Christ, even to the point of martyrdom, made them effective missionaries. Here is one of several passages in