Strike the Match: Evangelize!
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI—the renowned and prolific theology professor turned Prefect for the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, the architect of the Catechism of the Church, and, ultimately the Successor to Peter—has renewed the call to this new evangelization with his own style. The holy and humble teacher inspires others, not so much by his personal persuasion, but by letting the truth convert its hearers. He, too, models one of the keys to good evangelization: know your gift and offer it generously for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
In 2010 Pope Benedict founded the new Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelization. Then, he established the Year of Faith set to kick off this October 11th. Not coincidentally, the Year of Faith celebrates and emphasizes the 50th anniversary of the commencement of Vatican II, and the 20th anniversary of the premiere of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one of the fruits of the Council.
Finally, Benedict XVI is poised to convene the world's bishops in a synod this October 7-28 for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly. Their theme is "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." An ambitious workload is outlined for this summit. The agenda spells out the expectations of the Synod.
[T]he convocation of the Synod is seen as a timely opportunity for the entire Catholic Church to listen, discern and, above all, give a unified response to what we are called to do . . . to energize Christian communities and, at the same time, provide concrete answers to the many questions facing the Church today and the resources available in her evangelizing activity[...].
[T]he Synod is expected to enliven and energize the Church in undertaking a new evangelization, which will lead to a rediscovery of the joy of believing and a rekindling of enthusiasm in communicating the faith. The question is not simply devising something new or undertaking unprecedented initiatives in spreading the Gospel, but living the faith in the spirit of it being a divine proclamation... (Instrumentum Laboris, par. 5)
Amidst a few weeks of prayer and conversation around the table, Pope Benedict is striking a match and lighting a candle, calling bishops and the rest of the Catholic world to renewing the Church's primary role—her very reason for existence—evangelization!
The Christian faith is not simply teachings, wise sayings, a code of morality or a tradition. The Christian faith is a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ. Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time the conditions which lead to this encounter between the person and Jesus Christ. The goal of all evangelization is to create the possibility for this encounter, which is, at one and the same time, intimate, personal, public and communal... The Church is formed precisely through the grace of this relationship. (Instrumentum Laboris, par. 18)
To evangelize, the Church must first be evangelized. So must we.
Faith is sharpened and strengthened when it is shared. Let us pray and enter deeply into this Year of Faith, igniting the flame, and passing on its light.
Pat Gohn is a writer, speaker, and host of the Among Women podcast and blog. She holds a Masters in Theology, and a Bachelors in Communications. Her passion is working within the sphere adult faith formation both in parish life and in using media for evangelization and catechesis. Find more at www.patgohn.net.