An invitation to evangelization
The feast of Pentecost, especially during this Jubilee Year,
makes us aware of our duty to make Christ known in our midst as well
as support the work of evangelization in the world.
In fact, Pentecost marks the beginning of the public life of the
Church. and her mission. Renewed and given a new heart by the
Spirit, the Apostles mingled among the pilgrims coming from
different countries to celebrate the feast; they prophesied making
themselves understood by people speaking different languages, and
they surprised those who were present, who misinterpreted what was
happening. Then Peter, surrounded by the Eleven, explained what had
happened and proclaimed Christ as the Saviour. If the Apostles were
able to prophesy, it was because they were filled with the Holy
Spirit. Jesus is the Saviour through the Easter mystery. It is
necessary to be converted in order to be saved. In this way the
Apostles put into practice the mandate received beforehand from
In the New Testament Christ gave a specific mandate to his
Church. According to the Synoptics, the community of disciples was
sent by Christ to "teach and baptize" (Mt 28:19), to
"preach the Gospel and baptize" (Mk 16:15-16), to preach
conversion and forgiveness of sins" and to "be his
witnesses" (Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8). Each evangelist underlined an
aspect of the mandate (cf. Rom 23). Whereas the Synoptics insisted
on proclamation (cf. Mk) or on witnessing (cf. Lk), John, who was
the only one to explicitly speak of a "mandate",
underlined that the Trinity is the source and goal of the mission
(cf. Jn 17:3-20, 21).
Christ entrusted other tasks to his community of disciples: they
must be salt (Mt 5:13), light (cf. Mt 5:14), yeast (cf. Lk 13:20-21)
for mankind to whom they have been sent or among whom they live.
These images express an active role of the Church in the world,
achieved by life and not only by works. Then there is the new
commandment, his commandment, which is concrete and essential love,
not only toward one's brothers and sisters (cf. Jn 3:14), but
towards everyone (cf. Mt 5:44), according to the model of the Father
(cf. Mt 5:43-48) and of Christ himself (cf. Jn 15:12). One can say
that Christ left two main commandments: the one of loving and the
one of proclaiming the Gospel. They are not opposites, but
Both lead to the experiential knowledge of God shared with
mankind: "May they be one with us, I in them and you in me, so
that they may be perfect in unity and the world may know that you
sent me and you loved them as you loved me" (Jn 17:22-23).
The mission of the Church in relation to the world is first of
all received from Christ. The Church is called to carry this out by
making it reality. Instead, the ways of the mission must be sought.
The "how" depends on situations and possibilities.
However, the task of loving and bearing witness is permanent. If in
principle and in fact one of these two commandments is denied, the
Church is not only unfaithful but she becomes self-destructive.
Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii nuntiandi:
"Evangelization will always contain—as
the foundation, centre and at the same time the summit of its
dynamism—a clear proclamation
that in Jesus Christ ... salvation is offered to all men, as a gift
of God's grace and mercy" (n. 27). And Pope John Paul II added:
"All forms of missionary activity are directed to this
proclamation, which reveals and gives access to the mystery hidden
for ages and made known in Christ, the mystery which lies at the
heart of the Church's mission and life, as the hinge on which all
evangelization turns" (Redemptoris missio, n. 44).
Somehow this kind of proclamation should always be made, everywhere
and in everybody—at least as a
witness of one's own faith. It is not necessary to wait for places
or special events to do this. Ordinary life and every day contacts
can offer the opportunity to bear witness to our faith. Sometimes,
it is a matter of a simple comment or hint, which opens another to
the Christian reality. Proclamation is neither an impossible feat
nor an extraordinary one. It is necessary to be enlivened by faith
in order to do this in an almost natural way and appreciate the gift
of Christian life. Being able to proclaim Christ by making his
presence and his action of salvation felt, is also a grace which
strengthens our identity. Therefore, one must ask for this for us
and for the Church, especially in an indifferent world and with its
diversification of interests.
For this proclamation to be fulfilled and be in some way
accepted, it is necessary to have friendly relations with the people
to whom it is addressed; it is necessary to respect their values and
their human and spiritual journey, as well as have a spirit of
dialogue and mutual trust.
There is more to the mission to which a Christian is called than
only proclamation. There is solidarity to solve common problems of
life; there is dialogue to understand each other and journey
together, there is commitment to build a more just and human
society, there is worship to God which must be expressed also
socially, there is deepening faith and the effort to consult with
each other and make it suitable for that culture in which it is.
Pentecost also invites us to become aware that, as disciples of
Christ, we are all in agreement with the universal mission of the
Church so that Christ may be known and that his kingdom may come.
The small Christian community, often vexed, suspected and sometimes
persecuted, needs our support and prayer. People and human groups
who still do not know the Gospel need apostles and brothers and
sisters who can help them to discover the One who saves, who gives
meaning to life and opens the way of complete freedom.
We are part of this mission which has been entrusted to the
Church. And the first form of solidarity is prayer so that the Holy
Spirit descends upon us all, makes us burn with that divine love and
instils in us the need to live and proclaim Christ and his kingdom.