October 15, 2006

Fr. Roy Cimagala

New evangelization

The expression, “new evangelization,” has been around for quite some time now. Pope John Paul II in his 26-year pontificate had been talking a lot about it, and, mind you, he was not the first one to do so.

It’s not new anymore. It’s rather old and, in my view, even tired. But the concept will always remain new and relevant. There’s no doubt about that.

Jesus Christ, who is at the center of it all, can never become obsolete. He is the one who will make everything new. He can even make the dead rise to life again. So, relax, there’s no reason to despair, no matter how bad the picture may look.

The problem is us. We are not doing what we ought to do about it. There is so much laziness, ignorance, lukewarmness, doctrinal confusion. There is mad pursuit for earthly pleasures, a veritable systematic effort to “protect” oneself from God. It’s today’s version of people building their own Tower of Babel.

And if there is some flicker of interest, it is promptly spoiled by petty quarrels, envies and a strong crab mentality, if not by sheer incompetence and naked pride and vanity. It’s really a shame.

The truth is evangelization will always be an activity of the Church, a duty of every Christian faithful, that is, the clergy, the laity and the religious. But how many realize this, and how seriously do we take it?

As St. Paul once said: “Woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel!”(1 Cor 9:16). Pope Paul VI paraphrased this by saying: “Evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”

When Pope John Paul talked about the new evangelization, he wanted us, both clergy and laity, to find a new fervor, new methods, and new expressions in proclaiming and giving witness to Christ, given the rapid flow of developments nowadays. But what have we done about this indication?

The first thing to remember is that this new evangelization can only be done as a result of a vibrant spiritual life of intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. This is indispensable. There’s no other way.

How can we talk about God and his things if we don’t talk to him and earnestly assimilate his teachings?

Modern man especially has developed the knack to distinguish what is authentic from what is not, given the amount of sales talk he is exposed to these days. So we need to be authentic evangelizers, who first live by what we preach before evangelizing.

All effort at evangelization has to start with prayers, with serious study. It has to be nourished by a life of sacraments and continuing ascetical struggle, developing virtues and assimilating values in their proper hierarchy.

This is the only way to acquire some traces of credibility and to convince others that we are not simply transmitting our own ideas, but the teachings and even the very life of Christ.

Just as Christ said that anyone who sees him sees his Father who sent him, we should so live and act that anyone who sees and hears us can see and hear Christ who asks us to evangelize.

All the creativity needed in this task in the present context can and should flow only from such fount. Otherwise, all efforts will just go to waste. They cannot be expected to last nor to bear much fruit, etc.

The challenge here is how to make people feel the presence of God and realize the command of Christ. The laity especially should more keenly feel their duty to participate more actively in this task of evangelization.

In this regard, the lay people who are immersed in the world are especially expected to bring the message and spirit of Christ to all the corners of the world. That’s why they have to be truly adept in this task. That’s their challenge today.

They are especially crucial in evangelizing marriage and the family, the educational world, culture and entertainment, business and politics in all levels, from the local to the national and the international.

Aside from praying, studying and really trying to be holy, they need to know very well the social doctrine of the Church, which is that aspect of the Christian faith that impacts with man’s life and responsibilities in the world.

(Email: roycimagala@hotmail.com)

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