In his recently published Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis reflects on the work of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place October 7-28, 2012, and expresses his own “concerns about this particular chapter of the Church’s work of evangelization.” (#16)
He presents “some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality.” (#17) Many people are surprised by the length of the document (288 paragraphs and 217 footnotes) and the detail he uses to address a wide range of topics. Pope Francis explains that this is his way of showing “important practical implications for the Church’s mission today. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice” (Phil 4:4)
The Synod identified once again, the groups to be served by the new evangelization:
1) Active believers who take part in community worship as well as those who believe but seldom participate in community worship. Ordinary pastoral ministry seeks to help these believers grow spiritually.
2) The baptized whose lives do not correspond to the demands of Baptism and no longer find meaning in faith or a relationship to the Church. The Church tries to help these people to find the joy of faith in their hearts and recommit to the Gospel.
3) Those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. By sharing our joy and the abundance of gifts that our faith provides, we can attract others to hear the Gospel message. We do not proselytize.
This new style of evangelization in “all of our activities” is characterized by joy in the person and message of Jesus Christ, total dependence on the mercy of God, enthusiasm for good, appreciation of beauty and commitment to the poor among us.
Jesus commanded us to “Go and make disciples…” (Mt. 28:19) The Second Vatican Council began the movement toward the new evangelization. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have called us to it again and again. Pope Francis is saying now is the time to make it happen. “The love of Christ urges us on.” (2 Cor 5:14)
What are your thoughts on this document and what it means for us who are active in ministry? Are we encouraging and training our people to be evangelizers and helping them to be “completely mission-oriented”? If not, where do we start?
You can download the entire Apostolic Exhortation here.