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Ramiro Pellitero Iglesias, Dogmatic Theology, University of Navarra, Spain.

Helping to live life to the fullest

Wed, 02 Feb 2011 12:44:00 +0000 Published in

Reading the Message of Benedict XVI for the 2011 World Missionary workshop , someone might think: nothing new, we already know that we have to evangelize, be concerned about people, etc. Well, he is wrong. On the contrary, everything is new, everything can always be new, just as the Word of God is new at every moment, awaiting the response of every Christian.

Can one imagine a greater novelty than the fact that an ordinary Christian - not just a priest, or a person consecrated to God - sets out to bring to his friends, his relatives, his neighbors, this newness of the Gospel, and does so "with the same enthusiasm of the Christians of the first times"? The Pope takes these words of John Paul II to say that evangelizing is not only the task of missionaries, but of all the baptized. And quotation also to John Paul II when, remembering the disciples of Emmaus, he exhorted to be "vigilant and ready to recognize his face and to run to our brothers, to bring them the great advertisement: We have seen the Lord!" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 59).

Spreading the Gospel-bringing to others the joy of discovering Christ, the Son of God who gave himself on the Cross for each person-is, in fact, the best service that can be done to those who seek "the deepest reasons for living their lives to the full. It is also the best way for Christians themselves to grow in authenticity: " mission statement renews the Church, strengthens faith and Christian identity, gives new enthusiasm and new motivations. Faith is strengthened by giving it" (John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 2).

As the Second Vatican Council explained, the Church is missionary by nature, such is her ultimate identity (Paul VI), since Church means vocation of many. The same could be said of the Christian, which means follower of Christ and, therefore, anointed with the Holy Spirit to "spread" the love of God to the world.

For this reason, Benedict XVI now points out, "we cannot remain calm at the thought that, after two thousand years, there are still peoples who do not know Christ and have not yet heard his message of salvation": it is a task that has not lost its urgency. And then he adds: "Not only that; the multitude of those who, although they have received the advertisement of the Gospel, have forgotten and abandoned it, no longer recognizing themselves in the Church, is growing; and many environments, even in traditionally Christian societies, are today refractory to opening themselves to the word of faith".

How can this be explained and what are the consequences? "A cultural change is underway, fed also by globalization, by movements of thought and by the prevailing relativism, a change that leads to a mentality and a lifestyle that dispense with the Gospel Message, as if God did not exist, and that exalt the search for well-being, easy profit, degree program and success as goal of life, even at the expense of moral values".

Evangelization is the responsibility of all Christians. The Gospel is a good for all. It is not one task among others, which could be carried out from time to time, nor can it be limited to a particular time or place. It is the very "form of Christian life" which, without it, would be deformed. Evangelization, as has already been said, is to proclaim the Gospel, which means "good news" for all people, especially for those who do not know it or do not live it to the full. And that good news is that Christ lives, that his light and his life are capable of renewing all things, of fulfilling the deepest yearnings of the human heart, of making possible, and not just a beautiful utopia, the civilization of love.

 How is this done? Each Christian should and can do it according to his or her own condition. The majority of them (the so-called lay faithful), as the Council already observed, live immersed in civil society, with their families and jobs, their cultural, social and political concerns; and it is there that God calls them to order these same temporal realities to the Kingdom of God, being competent in their tasks and in solidarity with other citizens, seeking to look at all realities with the "eyes" of Christ.

It is logical for the Pope to emphasize that the Gospel implies taking human life seriously "in the sense of plenary session of the Executive Council". As if to say: to evangelize is not to be concerned only with the "soul" of people (if that were possible, which, evidently, it is not).

For this reason, he adds, "it is not acceptable... that evangelization should neglect themes that refer to human promotion, justice, liberation from all forms of oppression, obviously with respect for the autonomy of the political sphere".

He insists that to be disinterested in the temporal problems of humanity would mean - in the words of Paul VI - "ignoring the Gospel doctrine of love for one's neighbor who suffers or is in need". This, the present Pope points out, "would not be in harmony with the behavior of Jesus, who "went about all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and curing every disease and sickness" (Mt 9:35).

After reading the document, it becomes clear that Christians are not "aliens" who live in a world outside the concerns of the street. They are "people" like everyone else, they appreciate what is reasonable, they promote the beauty of truth and goodness. They seek unity in families and society, they seek peace and justice, they are concerned about hunger and wars. They respect the freedom of all, and claim for themselves the freedom to know that they are children of God and to propagate the universal brotherhood that derives from this. As a text written probably at the end of the second century said, "Christians are in the world what the soul is in the body" (Letter to Diognetus, ch. 6).