Thursday, 26 May 2011

What is the New Evangelisation?

The New Evangelisation is a movement of grace in the Church which is changing it from being a Church of maintenance to being a Church of mission.
It was Paul VI who first saw the need for a new evangelisation. in his 1975 Apostolic Letter Evangelii Nuntiandi he saw, prophetically, that "a new period of evangelisation" is needed because, he said, the “split between the Gospel and culture is without doubt the great drama of our time" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 2, 20).
John Paul II, recognising the insight of his predecessor's intuition, endeavoured to help the whole Church to see the need for a new evangelisation. He described it as new "in ardour, methods and expression". (Address to the Latin American Bishops, 1983) The New Evangelisation then, looks to new ways of proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, because so many people in the world are so affected by the kind of culture in which they live that they cannot hear the Gospel being proclaimed by the older methods of evangelization. Yet he said, "the vital core of the new evangelisation must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ." (Ecclesia in America, 66).
For John Paul II our task is not simply one of re-evangelisation, but of a new evangelization; because faith and culture have come apart the Church must discern new ways of sowing the Gospel in culture, as was the case originally in the Apostolic era, and then later in that era which began with the Christianisation of the Roman Empire.
John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelisation as a task of the whole Church; "God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelisation and to the mission ad gentes." (JPII, Redemptoris Missio, 3) In this new task, Dioceses, parishes, families, new movements and communities, young people, older people, priests and religious are called to take part.
"The Spirit”, he said, “is the principal agent of the new evangelisation." (JPII, Tertio Millenio Adveniente, 45) This means that God himself, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, is the principal cause of this new movement within the Church, a movement which touches upon the very identity of the Church, for the Church is both communion and mission.
In his 2001 Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio Ineunte, John Paul II expressed the ethos of the New Evangelisation at its beginning. He called Christians to fall in love with Christ again and to put out into the deep, courageously taking the Gospel into the heart of contemporary culture. "We must rekindle in ourselves”, he said, “the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost." (NMI, 40)
John Paul II spoke many times with great optimism about our era. In his 1990 Encyclical about the mission of the Church, he said, "If we look at today's world, we are struck by many negative factors that can lead to pessimism. But this feeling is unjustified: ... God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its signs." (Redemptoris Missio, 86)
“The present generation of Christians is called and sent now to accomplish a new evangelization among the peoples of Oceania, a fresh proclamation of the enduring truth evoked by the symbol of the Southern Cross. This call to mission poses great challenges, but it also opens new horizons, full of hope and even a sense of adventure.” (Ecclesia in Oceania, 13)
"Church in Europe, the new evangelisation is the task set before you!" (JPII, Ecclesia in Europa, 45)
John Paul II named Our Lady as the "Star of the New Evangelisation", pointing to her "as the radiant dawn and the sure guide for our steps" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 58).
In his Jubilee 2000 address to Catechists in Rome, the then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of evangelisation as teaching "the art of living." The New Evangelisation, he said, starts with the sign of the mustard seed; it does not mean great numbers but rather, "new evangelisation must surrender to the mystery of the grain of mustard seed and not be so pretentious as to believe to immediately produce a large tree. The method of the new evangelization”, he said, “consists in making the voice of the Lord accessible and comprehensible. Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God."
Bendict XVI wishing to help the Church to embrace the New Evangelisation has created a new Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelisation. In doing this he said that, “without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations.” (Ubicumque et Semper) The Holy Father is teaching us that evangelization flows out of the very being of Christians; that if we are truly living the Redemption, then the New Evangelisation will arise organically from within the Church.
The New Evangelisation then, has been set in motion by the Holy Spirit who is guiding the Church to respond to the need of the world today, by bringing the Gospel and culture together, so that people can be transformed by Christ. Today’s era is similar to that of the Early Church; we are living in a newly pagan culture, in which the Church is being called to proclaim and witness to the truth and the power of Christ. New Evangelisation involves the whole content of faith right from the start, witnessing to Christ and the Redemption and inviting others to live the new life of grace in the universal communion of the Church.
As in the Apostolic era, so today, we do not know what the Church will look like in the future; what we can see is what the Church looks like today at the start of this era of the New Evangelisation, and we can offer ourselves humbly to God, that He might find us full of faith-filled hope in the mission of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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