1. It is always the Spirit who calls to evangelization. So it was in the early church which, after being invested with Power from on high (Lk 24, 49), open ed itself to the world to proclaim the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. Whoever is not sent by the Spirit runs in vain (see Gal 2, 2) and is besides a false prophet speaking in his or her own name and not in the name of the Lord (see jet 23 & Ez 13).
2. John Paul II, attentive to the urgings of the Spirit, has called the whole church to a “new evangelization”. He has done this first of all through the living example of his apostolic travels “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1, 8), then with his words, especially the encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio.
3. The times in which we live are truly a kairos for the proclamation of the gospel. Christ himself calls to us: “Raise your eyes and see the fields which are ready for harvest” Jn 4, 35). What are, then, the signs of this ‘favorable time” for sowing the seed of the liberating Word?
4. Let us recall first of all the five hundredth anniversary of the first evangelization of the Americas. It is one of the greatest missionary undertakings of the church, but it is also true that on that continent the missionary’s cross came together with the conqueror’s sword. This historical collusion has heavily stain ed the witness to the gospel of peace through the Christian community’s share in responsibility for the massacre of indigenous races and cultures. But human sin did not overcome, the power of the Word that raised up on that continent the largest existing Christian community, half of the Catholic church today. The memory of the first evangelization of the Americas calls us to heed again the Lord’s missionary injunction: “Go, make disciples of all the peoples” (Mt 28, 19).
5. The tremendous changes taking I place in eastern Europe offer a second sign that now is a favor able kairos for evangelization. The communist system, which prohibited religion for political reasons, has caved in. Such a situation, with its violation of freedom of conscience, couldn’t last. Religion, once repressed, is coming back in force and needs to be accompanied by a new evangelization.
6. A third sign appears in the efforts made toward European unification, and not simply in the economic realm, but before all else, in the rediscovery of Europe’s Christian roots. The recent bishops’ synod (28 November – 14 December 1991) proposed a “new evangelization” of the European continent, so that the people can “decide again on their future in contact with the person and message of Christ ” (Declaration of the special assembly on Europe, 2).
7. We stand at the threshold of the second mil lennium. This fact pressures the church to an examination of conscience with regard to its missionary mandate. A third of humanity are declared Christians; and apart from the fact that their number is decreasing, they need a new evangelization, so that the faith becomes more than a cultural inheritance, so that it becomes a personal conviction and a courageous proclamation of Jesus Christ.
Questions for community reflection
1. Which of the signs mentioned above, or what other signs, prod us the most to undertake a new evangelization effort?
2. What are the concrete implications of the presence of the Spirit who urges the entire ecclesial community to proclaim the gospel?
3. How was John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Missio received by your community? What new light did it shed on your apostolic service?