Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Object of the New Evangelization

Last week I read a document by Bishop Edward Clark (of Los Angeles) on the New Evangelization.  He does an excellent job of summing up items various popes had been focusing on since 1975.  Here is a short excerpt from Bishop Clark's document:

What Makes It "New" and How Does It Differ From the "Old"? 

Traditionally the work of evangelization is the work of making converts, of baptizing nonbelievers and non-Christians into Christianity and specifically into the Catholic Church.  The Gospel is preached and the catechism is taught to non-Christians and non-Catholics in foreign lands and here at home.  Potential converts are taught about Jesus Christ (note the preposition about), and they are instructed in the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church.  Once the convert is baptized and/or received into the church and is added to the number of church members, the work of evangelization is done.

Read all of Bishop Clark's document here. 

Bishop Clark makes one incisive point here.  We don't teach about Christ, like He is a figure of the past.  Like His life is part of a great myth.  

We teach Christ.  We witness Christ in our lives, and in turn witness Him to others.  

This is evangelization that is alive.  St. Paul says that "we preach Christ crucified," because we know that death has been overcome by Life forever.  He is risen and alive and we cannot just teach about Christ.  

I recently sat in a meeting held by local Catholic school officials.  Over and over again during a small group breakout session, I heard members of my group say that what sets Catholic schools apart are "Gospel values."  

That's nice...

...and that's it. 

Values sound nice, and make a person feel nice.  But, do they become action?  Values signify that something is important.  Is it important enough that it becomes part of your dynamism as a person - part of the very stuff of your being and your decision-making process.  Or, do these values remain in a nice abstract box, that you access in certain circles, various conversations, etc.  

I was introduced to a song by Jesus Culture that brings up the same point Bishop Clark makes.  The song is entitled "You Won't Relent," and the portion I'm speaking about says:

"I don't wanna talk about You
Like You're not in the room.
Wanna look right at You
Wanna speak right to You."  

Herein lies the difference.  Do we believe that Jesus is truly present?  That we can access Him?  That He is a part of life?  

Or, have we positioned Him on the fringe?  Is He added on?  A nice value?  

These are the sorts of questions an examination into the New Evangelization should provoke. 

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