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Evangelisation: Sharing the word of God

In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi the term evangelization is understood in different ways. It means "to bring

the Good News into all areas of humanity, and through its impact, to transform that humanity from within, making it new" (no. 18). Thus, through evangelization the Church "seeks to convert solely through the divine power of the Message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, their ways of life, and the actual milieux in which they live" (EN 18). The Church accomplishes her evangelizing mission through a variety of activities. Hence there is a broad concept of evangelization. Yet in the same document, evangelization is also taken more specifically to mean "the clear and unambiguous proclamation of the Lord Jesus" (EN 22). The Exhortation states that "this proclamation - kerygma, preaching or catechesis - occupies such an important place in evangelization that it has often become synonymous with it; and yet it is only one aspect of evangelization" (EN 22). (Dialogue and Proclamation, no. 8)

The term 'evangelisation' can often feel daunting and far removed from an ordinary Christian's reality. It is something that we would rather leave to the 'experts' of faith to deal with it. However, in the foreword of his book, Navigating the New Evangelisation, Fr.  Raniero Cantalamessa, the distinguished Popes' preacher, sees it as a very simple and ordinary venture that we can all undertake. Fr. Cantalamessa says that whenever a person asks him, "How do I evangelise? How do I spread

the Good News?", he gives this simple answer, "Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus." Put plainly, evangelisation is primarily engaging someone in a conversation about the Person of Jesus Christ; what he means to every individual and the entire world as the Lord and Saviour. Evangelisation is and must be rooted in Jesus Christ. It is transmission of faith by the disciples of the Lord to those who do not yet know the Christ, or for renewal and deepening of faith of believers.

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Every person has the right to hear the Gospel of God to humanity, which

is Jesus Christ. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, humanity today needs to hear the words of Jesus: "If you knew the gift of God" (Jn 4:10), because these words elicit the deep desire for salvation which lies in everyone: "Lord, give me this water, that I may not thirst" (Jn 4:15).

This right of every person to hear the Gospel is clearly stated by St. Paul. Tireless in his preaching, he looks upon his work of proclaiming the Gospel as a duty, because he understood its universal significance: "For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). The Church desires that everyone should partake of these riches, so that they may have the fullness of truth and the means of salvation "to obtain the glorious liberty

of the children of God" (Rm 8:21). 

From Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, nos. 33 & 36)

Evangelising is every Christian disciple's mandate given by Jesus himself: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Matthew 28:19-20). For Jesus, the purpose of evangelisation is drawing people into his intimate relationship with the Father and the Spirit. To evangelise is to collaborate in the mission of Jesus. 

Evangelisation does not require any special training or method. The most necessary aspect of every evangelist is a personal interior journey of a lived relationship with Christ.  Sherry A. Weddell in her book Forming Intentional Disciples, calls this lived relationship with Christ, intentional discipleship.  Instrumentum Laboris goes on to explain that, "the Christian faith is not simply teachings, wise sayings, a code of morality or a tradition. The Christian faith is a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI stated: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.  The Gospel of God's love for us, the call to take part in the life of the Father, through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, is a gift meant for everyone. We proclaim Jesus himself, who calls everyone to conversion for the Kingdom of God."

Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time

the conditions which lead to an encounter between the person and Jesus Christ. The goal of all evangelization is to create the possibility for this encounter, which is, at one and the same time, intimate, personal, public and communal. - Instrumentum Laboris, no. 20

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In his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis affirms that "evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of these are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”. John Paul II asked us to recognize that “there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel” to those who are far from Christ, “because this is the first task of the Church”. Indeed, “today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church” and “the missionary task must remain foremost”. (no. 15)

The way Jesus treated people is to be considered an essential element of Jesus' method of evangelizing. He was able to welcome everyone, without distinction, and never exclude anyone: first the poor, then the rich like Zacchaeus and Joseph

of Arimathea; outsiders like the centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman; the righteous, like Nathanael; and prostitutes and public sinners with whom he also sat at table. Jesus knew how to plumb the depths of a person and elicit faith in the God who first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10, 19), whose love always precedes us and is not dependent on our own merits, because he is love itself: "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8 ,16). In this manner, he sets down how the Church is to evangelize, demonstrating for her

the heart of the Christian faith, namely, to believe in Love and in the face and voice of this Love, namely, Jesus Christ. (Instrumentum Laboris, no. 23)