March 31, 2012

Verbum Domini and the New Evangelization

Continuing our read through the third and final part of Verbum Domini, we next come to the Holy Father's words on "proclamation and the new evangelization". He points out that "not only are there still many peoples who have not come to know the Good News, but also a great many Christians who need to have the word of God once more persuasively proclaimed to them."

Pope John Paul II spoke often of the "new evangelization".  In his 2000 Apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte ("At the Beginning of the Millenium"), he wrote that "(e)ven in countries evangelized many centuries ago, the reality of a 'Christian society' which, amid all the frailties which have always marked human life, measured itself explicitly on Gospel values, is now gone." Re-evangelizing our culture is the task of all Christians. It "must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God. Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him."

In Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict relates "the communication of God's word and Christian witness", something on which "the very credibility of our proclamation depends". Yes, we need to spread the Gospel. We need to evangelize through our words. However, if we don't visibly live the Gospel, the message will "appear merely as a beautiful philosophy or utopia, rather than a reality that can be lived and itself give life." We need to show others that the Christian life can be lived.

For many, we are the empirical evidence of whether or not the Christian experiment works. It is no wonder that so many mock the Christian faith, when they look to us and see division, hypocrisy, and doubt. "Christian witness communicates the word attested in the Scriptures," the Holy Father reminds us. And how shall we give that witness? He continues that "the Scriptures explain the witness which Christians are called to give by their lives."

By reading and studying Scripture, we learn how to live the Christian life. When we live a visible Christian life, we attest to the power and truth of Scripture; we inspire others to read and study the Word of God. If those others put the lessons of Scripture into practice, they'll attest to it for others, and so on. Scripture and Christian Life spiral out, feeding each other and spreading like a good infection through the world.

Do you want to know more about the New Evangelization? EWTN hosts a lot of interesting historical and statistical information at their site: The New Evangelization: Building the Civilization of Love. One good resource for practical day-to-day evangelization through the Christian life is Renewal Ministries. (Their founder, Ralph Martin, is one of the consultors to the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.)

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