October 15, 2010


The Church is called to evangelize permanently in words and in action

“The Church always evangelizes and has never interrupted the path of evangelization. She celebrates the Eucharistic mystery every day, administers the sacraments, proclaims the word of life—the Word of God—and commits herself to the causes of justice and charity. And this evangelization bears fruit: It gives light and joy, it gives the path of life to many people; many others live, often unknowingly, in the light and the warmth that radiate from this permanent evangelization.”
- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI

The Church always evangelizes, the Holy Father tells us, because it is the nature of the Church to give witness to the person of Jesus Christ and his saving message.

When we celebrate the sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist; when we proclaim the Good News that God’s kingdom is in our midst, here and now; when we give generously to the poor and work to build communities of justice and peace in our world, we are evangelizing. The result? Light and joy, life and love, healing, forgiveness and peace.

Why do we hesitate to evangelize, to share our faith in God, to proclaim by our words and the way we live that we are disciples of Jesus Christ? Why do so many of us fail to practice our faith by staying away from the Sunday Eucharist, the sacrament of penance and the common life of our parishes? Why do we give in to despair, nurture feelings of anger and resentment, or buy in to the false promises of a secular culture that tells us happiness can be bought or manipulated?

We know better. True happiness comes from living the Gospel, from following the commandments and the beatitudes, from serving others, and from being grateful, generous and accountable in our stewardship of all God’s gifts. Why do we fail to evangelize when we know that our Lord has commanded us to be his faithful witnesses and to make disciples of all nations?

Pope Benedict XVI has warned of a “silent apostasy” that exists in secular cultures where Catholics live as though they had never heard the word of God or learned to practice their faith in an open and active way. In these cultures, the pope says, lay Catholics have an “irreplaceable” duty to evangelize—at home, in their neighborhoods, at work and in the public square.

“Participation in public and political life is a specific task of the laity,” the Holy Father says. “The Church does not identify with any party, with any political community,” the pope says. “Rather, she always reminds us that lay people involved in political life must give a courageous and visible witness of Christian values, which must be affirmed and defended in case they are threatened.”

The work of evangelization takes on an especially important character during an election time. Not only do candidates who profess that they are Catholics have to reflect their beliefs publicly and in their political agendas, but those of us who are among the electorate must vote—and be seen to vote—according to our religious and moral convictions as disciples of Jesus Christ and members of his Church.

The “new evangelization” that Pope Benedict proposes in solidarity with his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II, requires the active collaboration of bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity. Starting with the diocesan bishop, who must “model Christ in his virtues—chastity, the practice of poverty, the spirit of prayer, simplicity, and the delicacy of conscience,” all who wish to follow Christ must embrace the responsibility to evangelize.

Today, as always, evangelization requires reaching out to those who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. But today, as perhaps never before, evangelization also means reaching out to those Catholics among us who have “fallen away,” and to all of us whose observance of Church teaching and practice is not what it should be.

Let’s participate actively in the “permanent evangelization” of the Catholic Church: her sacraments, her preaching, and her witness to right living and social justice. Let’s actively resist the silent apostasy of our secular culture and not hesitate to make it known that we are followers of Jesus Christ who have accepted the Great Commission he has given us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).

If we are faithful evangelists—witnesses to the Gospel in our words and our actions—the result will be light and joy, life and love, healing and forgiveness.

Then we will know with the certainty of faith that the kingdom of God is in our midst, and that our Lord is with us until the end of the age.

—Daniel Conway

Local site Links: