The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas, recently outlined the important elements of the New Evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II and now Benedict XVI.
“The fundamental mission of the Church is evangelization, which has as its ultimate end the clear proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man,” said the archbishop. He spoke to a group of young missionaries on Oct. 21 at the Catholic University of Santiago, Chile.
This proclamation, he continued, “should lead to a commitment in the heart, to the following of the Lord Jesus, so that by embracing that Word of life, the person becomes someone who gives testimony and proclaims; in other words, one who has been evangelized must also evangelize.”
This task is especially important in light of the challenges facing many traditionally Christian countries, where there is a great loss of faith and a growing secular environment that “seeks to exclude God from peoples’ lives, marginalize the Church from public life, and cultivate religious indifference,” Archbishop Ruiz said.
These countries experience economic prosperity and consumerism, combined with frightening pockets of poverty and misery, where people are encouraged to live “as if God did not exist,” he continued.
The concept of the New Evangelization came out of the Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council in Puebla, Mexico, the archbishop explained. The task of the Church, the council said, was to forge “an evangelization of the culture and a new quality of evangelization as well, which begins at the personal level, in the family and at the parish, in order to confront the widespread phenomenon of secularization.”
At the same time, he explained, the New Evangelization “is not about a new message different from the one of the past, as we preach the same Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever. What is new is found in the heart of the one who proclaims the Gospel.”
“This person must be someone who is totally in love with the Lord, with somebody who has satiated his thirst with the Word of Christ,” he said, underscoring that the New Evangelization should be new in its ardor, in its methods and in its expression.
Archbishop Ruiz Arenas then listed a series of requirements for undertaking this task. The first, he said, is to “give primacy to grace,” as John Paul II taught. “We must be aware that it is the Holy Spirit that works in the Church. We must not fall into the temptation to think that it is our works or our plans that lead to results and to conversion,” he explained.
The second is “to live as an authentic missionary disciple. Discipleship is a reality that cannot be lived in an isolated, individual way, but, rather, it must be lived in community. The Lord went about choosing and calling his disciples. Today, he calls each one of us as well and gives us a mission.
“We must live the joy of feeling that we are called and loved by the Lord,” he continued.
The third requirement is to show great generosity, while the fourth is that all the activity of the Church must be an expression of love and service in search of the comprehensive well-being of the human person. This love and service speaks for itself and constitutes a form of evangelization. “By our words, our silence and our example, we make what we proclaim and celebrate believable,” the archbishop said.
The fifth requirement is that prayer be at the foundation of everything that we do: “We live in a world of continual agitation and movement, which translates into activism that runs of risk of ‘doing for the sake of doing.’”
The sixth requirement is the centrality of the Eucharist, “which contains in itself the very nucleus of the mystery of the Church and constitutes the source and summit of the entire Christian life. The mystery of the faith is celebrated in it with joy, as it makes present the central event of our salvation and brings about the work of our redemption, making the redeeming sacrifice of Christ ever present in our time,” the archbishop said.
The seventh requirement is continual reading of the word of God. “We urgently need to trust in the sacred Scriptures and be familiar with them, so that they will be the compass that guides our path,” he said, recommending the prayerful reading of the Bible through lectio divina.
He concluded by reminding young people of John Paul II’s call to “cast out into the deep” in order to be “evangelizers of others: of your families, your friends and companions, and of all those whose faith is weak or who are afraid to commit to the Lord. Today, you are the apostles of the New Evangelization.”
The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization was created by Pope Benedict XVI in June of 2010 to foster a reawakening of the faith, especially in Europe and the United States.