Wednesday 15 January 2014

EG, Section 1.

If we are looking for the Holy Father to give some defined structure to the New Evangelisation in his new Exhortation, we will not find it presented in a systematic way. In Section One of the Letter, Pope Francis does not give us a rationale for the New Evangelisation - this was given by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI - but rather, he seeks to change the attitude of the Church; that with a changed attitude, one 'sees' the New Evangelisation and the need for it. (Changing attitudes is, as we know from our own lives, generally a slow process!)
However, I am very much moved by Section 1 of this Letter as the Holy Father speaks of the New Evangelisation as a new era of the Church in which she turns from being a Church of maintenance to being a Church of Mission. The Holy Father does give a concise definition of evangelisation, one which is worth using since the very word 'evangelisation' can put some people off. He calls it simply, "communicating Jesus Christ." 
Important elements in the guiding pastoral hand of the Pope are:
Paragraph 21: that "each Christian and community must discern the path which the Lord points out." It is the Lord's vineyard, not ours, so we have got to listen to Him.
Paragraph 23: "Communion and mission are profoundly interconnected." Indeed, these two words describe the Church.
Paragraph 24: "An evangelising community gets involved by word and deed in people's lives", even to taking on "the smell of the sheep." Self-referenciality is already dead in the water!
Paragraph 25: "Mere administration cannot be enough; let us be permanently in a state of mission." Aren't these words of the Pope wonderful!
Paragraph 27: "I dream of a … missionary impulse capable of transforming everything (about the Church) for the evangelisation of today's world rather than her self-preservation." In this part the Holy Father alludes to the need to reform structures in the Church, but we are at the very beginning of the NE and how the Church will look in the future is not clear to anyone yet.
Paragraph 28: The parish must become "nearer to people … environments for living communion and participation, and completely mission-oriented." These are words that just won't go away. We may wriggle and squirm, but the Pope has said it.
Paragraph 33: "Pastoral ministry in a missionary key … seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: "We have always done it this way."' And then, perhaps most importantly the Pope says, "The important thing is not to walk alone." Priests, for one, cannot manage alone in the New Evangelisation.
Paragraph 45 is very beautiful with the Holy Father describing the Christian life from the perspective of a missionary heart. This is a paragraph which we should each take into Adoration.
I'll post on Section Two next.

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