Today’s evangelization challenges

8. Humanity today poses many and serious challenges to the work of evangelization. We can consider two of them: the problem of life’s meaning and the problem of justice -in other words, the religious question and the ethical question.

9. Let’s consider first the religious challenge regarding life’s meaning. Modern societies are characterized by a growing domination of natural and social processes by human rationality. Religion has been moved outside the area of social concern and relegated to life’s margins.

10. This phenomenon has taken on historically the form of secularism, the claim to prescind totally from every transcendental reference or, in other words, from the depth dimension of human existence. With their consumerism and hedonism modern societies have become largely materialistic and practically atheistic. They are organized and function “as if God didn’t exist”. 11. But such a situation does violence to the per son as open to the radical and ultimate meaning of existence. In recent years there has been a strong reaction to this culture that is closed within the horizon of immanence. New forms of religious conscious ness have emerged. If in some respects these represent a legitimate reaction to modem society’s secularism, in other respects and from a Christian viewpoint they point to a new paganism with all sorts of ambiguities.

12. The modern world feels more and more like an orphan without God, the Creator and Father of all and everything; and it is to this world that the unity of believers is called to proclaim the news of the kingdom and of the Father who loves humanity in the alliance of grace and salvation established through his Son Jesus Christ. Who will be able to reveal to men and women of today the ultimate meaning of life? “Only you have words of eternal life” – this is the confession of faith made to Jesus Christ by Peter, the representative of all believers (Jn 6, 68). Yes, it’s the task of the ecclesial community to be the very space where men and women of today can experience faith and rediscover both their own radical identity and their final destiny.

13. The modem world is, consequently, a genuine “mission territory”. It’s not enough to make Christian values (freedom, solidarity, peace … ) a part of modem culture that penetrates it’s structures. The culture must make these values its own through an option centered on their life-giving source: faith in Jesus the Lord!

14. The second great challenge for the Christian and human community concerns the ethical dimension of the social and economic misery in which a very large part of humanity lives and struggles. This is not, admittedly, a problem that touches the religious sphere directly; it is, nonetheless, closely connected with faith in Jesus the Liberator. It’s a connection that Jesus himself made between his own person and the poor: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat…” (Mt 25, 35). The content of evangelization cannot be restricted to the proclamation of the Lord of the kingdom; rather it implies the proclamation, too, of the kingdom of them Lord who is bread and peace for all. It is for this very reason that “evangelizing the poor” (Lk 4, 18; 7, 22) was for Jesus and continues to be for the church both sign and content of the mission.

15. The ecclesial community must, therefore, in the name of Jesus, care for the oppressed and abandoned of every kind. The social mission of the church arises out of its mission to evangelize. The option for the Christ of the poor leads to an option for the poor of Christ. The church today is confronted not only with the spiritual misery of the world but also with its socioeconomic misery. The church is called and in turn calls us to struggle tenaciously for a world that is both meaningful and just.

16. To these challenges others must be added: respect for nature (ecology), the dignity of women, peace among all peoples a culture that favors life in all its forms (in distinction to a culture of non- life), the physical and mental health of individuals (the drug problem), a new world order. Even without the dramatic and urgent character of the primary and fundamental problem of misery and hunger, all these challenges are serious and are waiting for the evangelizing message that comes from the church and, within the church, from the Servants of Mary.

Questions for community reflection
1. How does our community act with regard to the multitude of de-christianized or neopagan men and women who are outside the believers’ circle? How can they be reached and how can the experience of faith in Jesus Christ be awakened in them, with all the social implications that involves?
2. How do we give concrete expression to the awareness that the “option for the poor” is part of the evangelization mission?
3. Which of all the problems of today’s world deserves our special attention and commitment?