Bishop Richard G. Lennon
friday december 6 2013
Pope's document on evangelization holds much meaning for all Christ's followers
Last week the Vatican released Pope Francis' first official document of his
pontificate. The title by which this document will be known is Evangelii
Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). It is an Apostolic Exhortation which follows up on
a Meeting of Bishops with the Holy Father in a Synod. In this document Pope
Francis reflects upon the Synod held from the 7th to the 28th of October 2012
on the theme, "The new evangelization for the transmission of the Faith."
The particular perspective Pope Francis writes from is that the new evangelization must be marked by joy, for evangelization is about an encounter with Jesus which should totally affect any person who encounters the Lord.
The Church's commitment about such encounters begins with the very words of Jesus which we find in the last chapter of Saint Matthew's Gospel:
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." MT 28:19-20.
Over the centuries evangelization has been a most significant part of the Church's Mission. Some of the times it has been more vibrant and more committed than other time periods. However, it is true to say the Church never forgets the command of Jesus, and thus the Catholic Church is today truly present literally throughout the world.
In our lifetime we have been presented this teaching on Evangelization by the Second Vatican Council, principally in the Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church given in Rome December 7, 1965; by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi; and by Pope John.
Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio. In fact, throughout Pope John Paul II's pontificate he often spoke about the New Evangelization.
Pope Benedict XVI in October of 2011 announced the Year of Faith which we concluded almost two weeks ago. He called for this special year to help all Catholics deepen their understanding and appreciation of their faith. He did this to call people to a deeper relationship with the Lord by living their relationship with Jesus Christ, and for the sake of carrying on the Evangelizing Mission of the Church to help people come to know and love the Lord.
Thus, Pope Francis by offering us this Apostolic Exhortation is following in the footsteps of his predecessors right back to what Our Lord charged his followers to embrace on Ascension Thursday. In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis shares with the Faithful his own perspectives, highlighting those who are most in need, those who are on the margins of life, and those who are poor.
This document is truly a major Church statement which calls for careful study and reflection. It is for that reason after the New Year I will share thoughts about this teaching for a number of articles for my column.
Lastly, I share with you the first sentence in the Apostolic Exhortation--"The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus."
Happy Advent to one and all.