Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The proclamation of the Gospel "is more than just simple doctrinal and moral transmission". The proclamation of the Gospel "is, first and foremost, witness – one cannot evangelize without witness – witness of the personal encounter with Jesus Christ". This is why the witness of Christ is "the first means of evangelization" and "an essential condition for its efficacy".
Pope Francis repeated this during today's general audience, Wednesday, March 22, continuing the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the passion for evangelization and apostolic zeal. This time, the chain of the new catechesis developed around extensive and numerous quotations from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi signed by Saint Paul VI on December 8, 1975, a magisterial text defined by Pope Francis as the “Magna Carta” of Evangelization in the Contemporary World. It is topical, it was written in 1975 but it is as though it were written yesterday". Suggestions and emphases of the new papal catechesis highlighted the ever more prophetic character of the words with which Paul VI, precisely in Evangelii Nuntiandi, recognized that "modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers" and "if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses".
Witness - continued the Bishop of Rome - also includes "professed faith", and manifests itself above all in the change that Christ himself brings about in his witnesses, in those who bear witness to him precisely in this change. It is faith "that transforms us, that transforms our relationships, the criteria and the values that determine our choices". It is for this reason - the Bishop of Rome pointed out among other things - witness does not manifest itself as a "performance" exhibited by witnesses, but rather represents a reverberation, a reflection of a "path of holiness" which draws from the sacramental source of Baptism, also "a gift from God" and who "asks to be welcomed and to bear fruit for us and for others. You cannot evangelize without witnessing", reiterated Pope Francis. It is essential to evangelize. The world needs evangelizers to speak to it of a God whom the evangelists themselves should know and be familiar with. It is not to transmit an ideology or a “doctrine” on God. It is to transmit God who is living in me. Witness cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes and what one proclaims, and what one lives. A person is credible if there is harmony between what he or she believes and lives".
Paul VI - Pope Francis continued - teaches that the zeal for evangelization springs from holiness, is nourished by prayer and above all by love for the Eucharist. At the same time, evangelization too, in turn "increases holiness in the people who carry it out". While without holiness, the word of the evangelizer "will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man", and "risks being vain and sterile. A holiness that is not reserved to the few".
The proclamation of the Gospel – remarked Pope Francis in the final part of his speech, again taking inspiration from passages from Evangelii Nuntiandi - can never be considered as a kind of "acquired heritage", an activity exercised and monopolized by the Church with "professional" mastery, through old and new communication strategies. The baptized also constantly need to hear and hear again the proclamation of the Gospel. The Church needs at all times to return to beg the Lord to heal, purify and renew her. She - continued Pope Francis, continuing to quote Montini's Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi "needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love". The Church, which is a People of God "immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols – many of them – and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the works of God. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, she needs to read the Gospel, to pray and to feel the force of the Spirit changing her heart, If the Church does not evangelize herself, she remains a museum piece. A Church that evangelizes herself in order to evangelize is a Church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, is required to walk a demanding path, a path of conversion and renewal. The Church must go forward, she must grow continually; in this way she will remain young. The Church must be a Church that dialogically encounters the contemporary world, that weaves fraternal relationships, that generates spaces of encounter, implementing good practices of hospitality, of welcome, of recognition and integration of the other and of otherness, and that cares for the common home that is creation. That is, a Church that dialogically encounters the contemporary world, that dialogues with the contemporary world, but that encounters the Lord every day, and dialogues with the Lord, and allows the Holy Spirit, the agent of evangelization, to enter. It is the Spirit in us that drives us towards evangelization, and this is the true freedom of the children of God"
The Pope concludes by inviting the faithful to read and re-read Evangelii nuntiandi, which he himself often reads, because it is Saint Paul VI’s masterpiece, it is the legacy he left to us, to evangelize. (AP/NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 22/3/2023)