Saturday, 27 October 2007 02:10

Who must be evangelised?


“We cannot preach conversion unless we ourselves are converted anew every day.”
Redemptoris Missio 47

Looking at it this way, we are reminded that we all fall short of perfection in some way, and we see that we all need to be converted more and more to Christ. In fact, when we talk about evangelisation, we must begin by evangelising ourselves. Prompted by the Holy Spirit within us, we must seek to deepen our faith, continuously turn away from sin in repentance, and seek to draw ever closer to God. We should constantly strive to be better, answering the call to “be holy, as God is holy” and seek to be converted more and more into His likeness through His grace.

Those in our Church

“[S]he has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel.”
Evangelii Nuntiandi 14

Our Church and parish communities are comprised of people who are journeying in faith. As we journey together, we as Christians must be open to both evangelising and being evangelised by those in our faith community. This means building up the community – not in a way that is bossy, preachy, critical or judgemental of fellow members of the Body of Christ but in a way that shows others Christ’s love for them.

In his letter to Titus, Paul instructs his friend to teach virtues to people in the community by modelling those virtues himself: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” Similarly, as Christians, we must live out our faith in Jesus Christ in a way that sets an example of a lifestyle of love and holiness that is attractive enough to encourage others to want to live similarly.

Those who have never been Christian

“The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly on the increase... When we consider this immense portion of humanity which is loved by the Father and for whom he sent his Son, the urgency of the Church’s mission is obvious.”
Redemptoris Missio 3

In the past, it could be taken for granted that Australians in general would have an idea of who Jesus is, even if only as a historical figure. Today, however, more and more people (especially young people) have only heard of Him as a swear word.

Jesus commanded us, His Church: “Go…and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This naturally involves the proclamation of the Good News to those who have never heard it before. This is often called “Initial Proclamation”, and is an aspect of mission and evangelisation that is always important. The words of John Paul II challenge us to this:
“The Church cannot… deprive men and women of the "Good News" about their being loved and saved by God… In Jesus, salvation is offered to all people as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.”


Those who have fallen away: the “New Evangelisation”

The New Evangelisation is a phenomenon that has a special focus on those who have fallen away from the faith, or who were poorly instructed.

In 1990, Pope John Paul II released an encyclical on evangelisation called “Redemptoris Missio” (in English, “The Mission of the Redeemer”). He had noticed that there are some countries (even some with ancient Christian roots) where “entire groups of the baptised have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel.” Additionally, those in such countries who are still in the Church are often tired and jaded, and exhibit little enthusiasm towards evangelisation and sharing the good news.

Today in Australia, around 84.7% of Catholics do not attend Mass regularly (2001 Church Census). Millions of people have received the Sacrament of Baptism during infancy, but for most of these individuals, this has not grown into a living faith. For some, this is due to inadequate faith instruction, for others, it is due to growing up in environments that do not impress upon them the importance of a living faith in God. Others still are influenced by other factors. The result, though, is that many see the Church as misguided, out of touch, boring, on the decline, “not for them”, or even totally irrelevant, and have consequently chosen to stop participating. The number of such non-practicing Catholics in Australia is around four million people.

Clearly, Australia neatly matches John Paul II’s observations. Many in the Church have therefore heeded his words when he declared, “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelisation” .


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