The bishops who will gather in Rome to discuss the New Evangelization have their marching orders.
And so do we laity, who gather in the public square to carry out that New Evangelization in our everyday lives.
The 13th ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held at the Vatican Oct. 7-28, will examine “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
The instrumentum laboris (working document) that will help them in their discussions was issued June 19. It is a summary of the responses to the questions that were submitted by bishops’ conferences around the world as part of the planning for this important synodal gathering.
It’s a long document, but a key part of it bears repeating again and again.
In this age when formerly Christian countries have gone off in all sorts of secularized directions, the Church doesn’t need another “program.” The Church needs Christ.
Each Christian needs to come to know him more and more intimately, day by day, and allow his or her life to be guided by him.
“The Christian faith is a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ,” the instrumentum laboris states. “The goal of all evangelization is to create the possibility for this encounter.”
This begins in prayer — both personal and communal.
“Jesus’ evangelizing actions lead a person quite naturally to a conversion experience,” the document says. “Every person is called to conversion and to faith in God’s merciful love. The Kingdom will grow in the manner in which each person learns to turn, in the intimacy of prayer, to God as Father (Luke 11:2; Matthew 23:9) and, following the example of Jesus Christ, to recognize, in a totally free manner, that the goal of life is fulfilling God’s will (Matthew 7:21).
“Evangelization and the call to holiness and conversion are intricately bound together, a matter which needs to be proposed to people here and now if they are to experience the Kingdom of God in Jesus and, in turn, become the children of God.”
As for the communal aspect, the document focuses primarily on the Eucharist: “The best place to transmit the faith is a community nourished and transformed by the liturgical life and prayer. An intrinsic relationship exists between faith and the liturgy: Lex orandi, lex credendi [The law of prayer is the law of belief].”
It goes on to quote Pope Benedict XVI’s letter calling for a Year of Faith, Porta Fidei: “Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy, because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness.”
Further, it cites Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council: “The liturgy, ‘through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,’ most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.”
As American Catholics wrap up a two-week period of prayer and sacrifice July 4 in support of religious freedom, let us remain in the habit of daily prayer and even daily Mass where possible — praying for the success of the synod, of course, but also because prayer is where we will come to know Christ better.
By developing this intimate relationship with our Redeemer, we will be better witnesses to the faith as we go forth into the world — and thereby evangelize with our very lives.
As Pope Benedict said in Porta Fidei, “Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.”