Pope Benedict XVI on a “new evangelization”

Pope Benedict XVI explained why we need an effort for a “New Evangelization.” Here are three paragraphs from a recent statement (from the address Benedict XVI gave on May 30 2011 to members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting , who are concluding the council’s first plenary assembly) with a brief commentary.

[1] The crisis being experienced bears in itself traces of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, of a generalized indifference toward the Christian faith itself, to the point of attempting to marginalize it from public life. In past decades it was still possible to discover a general Christian sense that unified the common feeling of whole generations, growing up in the shadow of the faith that had molded the culture. Today, unfortunately, we are witnessing the drama of a fragmentation that no longer consents to a unified point of reference; moreover, we often see the phenomenon of persons who wish to belong to the Church, but are strongly molded by a vision of life that opposes the faith.

We need restore some points of reference, particularly for the young people today. A passage from Fides et ratio frequently comes to mind on this matter: “For it is undeniable that this time of rapid and complex change can leave especially the younger generation, to whom the future belongs and on whom it depends, with a sense that they have no valid points of reference. The need for a foundation for personal and communal life becomes all the more pressing at a time when we are faced with the patent inadequacy of perspectives in which the ephemeral is affirmed as a value and the possibility of discovering the real meaning of life is cast into doubt. This is why many people stumble through life to the very edge of the abyss without knowing where they are going. At times, this happens because those whose vocation it is to give cultural expression to their thinking no longer look to truth, preferring quick success to the toil of patient enquiry into what makes life worth living.” §6 Whose vocation is it to give cultural expression to truth, to embody the points of reference such as veneration of God, respect for moral law, authentic love? Teachers, artists, journalists. We need to teach the teachers.

[2] To proclaim Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world seems more complex today than in the past; but our task remains the same as at the dawn of our history. . . . A dynamic continuity exists between the proclamation of the first disciples and our own. In the course of the centuries the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor to convince contemporary man, often distracted and insensitive. Because of this, the New Evangelization will have to be responsible for finding the methods to make the proclamation of salvation more effective, without which personal existence remains in its state of contradiction, deprived of the essential.

Pope Benedict does suggest a way forward — to discover and identify those points of contradiction and incoherence in modern life and personal existence — then perhaps one becomes receptive to the gospel. Again, Blessed gave us a great account of this message in his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis: “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer ‘fully reveals man to himself’.” §10

[3] Even in one who remains ed to his Christian roots, but lives the difficult relationship with modernity, it is important to make it understood that being Christian is not a sort of uniform to wear in private or on particular occasions, but is something alive and all-encompassing, able to take up all that is good in modernity.

Politicians frequently split their faith from their everyday activities; their lives become incoherent, a living contradiction. But this can be true of us if we fail to discovery that profound unity of faith and life. Blessed John Paul II wrote in his Ecclesia in America,  “On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel.” §44.

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