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Let the New Evangelization Begin

Jeffrey Bruno

Angelo Matera - published on 12/01/13

Evangelii Gaudium that expresses the Pope’s missionary spirit:
“The good news is the joy of the Father who desires that none of his little ones be lost, the joy of the Good Shepherd who finds the lost sheep and brings it back to the flock. The Gospel is the leaven which causes the dough to rise and the city on the hill whose light illumines all peoples. The Gospel has an intrinsic principle of totality: it will always remain good news until it has been proclaimed to all people, until it has healed and strengthened every aspect of humanity, until it has brought all men and women together at table in God’s kingdom…” (237)

When Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium that “[i]t is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction,’” that does contradict or reduce the urgency of the Church’s world-historical mission. Since Vatican II, the Church has had a deeper understanding of human freedom and its role in salvation history. Spreading the Gospel by appealing to each person’s freedom—by example and through respectful dialogue—is what makes Evangelii Gaudium beautiful instead of frightening.  It’s about proposing, not imposing. It gives new meaning to Christ’s explanation of his mission: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." (John 12:32)

A Church that is humble and poor is no less zealous in proclaiming the world-historical mission of Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s no surprise that Evangelii Gaudium was issued on November 25, the Feast of Christ the King, a solemnity established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to make clear to the rising atheistic powers of the time that Christians owed their primary allegiance to Christ.

In his Christ the King homily, Pope Francis, in continuity with his predecessors, called Christians to recognize that “Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. When this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.”

“Christ,” he concluded, “is the centre of the history of the human race and of every man and woman.”

The Pope’s faith in the reality of Jesus Christ was reflected in his interview with the atheist Eugenio Scalfari, when he said “…there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation.” In other words, his faith is not a matter of subjective belief, but of real knowledge, based on the fact of God’s presence in human history.

When we really believe in the objective truth of our faith—that God exists and is objectively present in the universe, in history, in the Church, and in the hearts of every human person—we’re free to love without judgment, and dialogue without fear, because truth’s existence doesn’t depend on us. We’re called to teach and defend the truth—as Pope Francis has done unequivocally on doctrine—but to love and accept people unconditionally. The state of a person’s conscience is a mystery that can only be judged by God. Our job is to follow Christ, carry his cross, and witness to his love.

It is this certitude that God “marches triumphantly in history with those who ‘are called and chosen and faithful’ (Rev 17:14). [278] which permeates Evangelii Gaudium, and gives it an almost martial tone:

“Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).” (85)

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FaithJesus ChristLiturgyPope Benedict XVIPope FrancisPope John Paul II
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