Evangelization and Faith

Author: Gino Concetti


Gino Concetti

The ministry of the Word of God in the Christian community was the theme of the seventeenth week of pastoral aggiornamento held last year in Venice. The proceedings of the week have just been published by the Centre of Pastoral Orientation (Evangelization and Faith, Edizioni Pastorali, via Paisiello, 6 Roma), Cardinal Urbani, commenting on the reason for the theme chosen, indicated that it comes from a celebrated text of Saint Paul. In the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle shows clearly how the problem of eternal salvation is indissolubly bound up with faith, and faith with preaching. An attempt at exegesis of the Pauline text—observes the Patriarch of Venice—leads to an understanding of the motivating ideal of the week. "To sceptics, to the indifferent, to atheists, to the desperate who spread abroad the unhappy message of a humanism without God, and who in their denunciations of the crisis in our society (let us leave the judgment on their sincerety to God), find no better solution than iconoclastic despair and apocalyptic hopelessness, we are debtors of the Gospel".

Evangelization, according to Cardinal Urbani, is the work of the whole Church. By reason of the explicit mandate from Christ, the episcopal order, aided by priests and united to the successor of Saint Peter, has the duty above every other to spread the faith and salvation. But the rest of the People of God, the laity, participate in the prophetic office. This participation expresses itself in a living witness to God through a life of faith and charity and the offering of a sacrifice of praise. Before being teachers of faith priests must be examples of faith. The word of the Gospel pronounced by a man of living and deep faith has always an intrinsic efficacy if it is not outwardly impeded.

Christian people are not wanting in faith. But what is its effect in their daily life? What theological grounding does the faith have among large numbers of believers? How many know how to give adequate expression of their own faith? To render the faith of the people more unsettled and vacillating there is no lack of "new theological and exegetical opinions" denounced by the Pope with extreme vigour and constancy. The people of God depend upon their pastors for the doctrine of the Gospel and the sacrament of grace. There is a twofold problem here regarding content and method. Perhaps one of the causes of the religious anaemia from which not a few communities often suffer is traceable to a preaching poor in content, out of touch with reality or lacking in spirituality. Another cause lies in the fact that the laity are not suitably prepared to exercise their prophetic office. It is necessary, therefore, to recognize the organic responsibility which with the bishop at the head extends to all the members of the People of God. All this was part of the observation and exhortation of Cardinal Urbani.

Monsignor Ceriani, elaborating on the mystery of the word of God in the light of the mystery of the Church, stated that the growth of an authentic Christian community has the Eucharist as its root. This has to be the beginning of any education to form the spirit of community. The Eucharistic celebration in turn, in order to be complete, must lead to the various works of charity, to mutual aid either in missionary action of spreading the word, or to different forms of Christian witness. For dynamism, evangelization has two basic needs: it must be faithful to God and faithful to man. It must reverence the whole body of revealed truth and must respond to the needs of man in every age.

Father Domenico Grasso, developing the content of evangelization, began with the premise that up to a few years ago, the problem as it stands did not exist, because it was regarded as acquired. He explained that there has been a complete upsetting of perspective in consequence of a simple reflection on pastoral practice. The problem reduces itself to this question: if Christianity is the good news, how does it happen that there is so little joy among Christians. What accounts for this? P. Jungman concludes that in fact this is not unrelated to preaching. According to Father Grasso the faithful live Christianity in the way it has been taught to them. They do not think of the Gospel as the good news, because the presentation of the faith given them has been weak and inefficacious. The conclusion is obvious: if Christian life is to be renewed, preaching must be renewed, and before being concerned about method, there must be attention to content Scripture is the first source to be approached. The content is the Paschal Christ, crucified and risen for the salvation of man. This was the content of the kerygma of the Apostles and of the early Church. Evidently the mystery of Christ cannot be separated from man because Christ died for the salvation of man. To be efficacious the renewal of preaching must begin in the seminaries. For this a radical modification of programmes is indicated. The responsibility for the ministry of the word was the subject of a careful. analysis by Monsignor Natale Bussi, director of the pastoral institute of Turin. Elaborating on the concept of the Church as a communion with certain characteristics, he noted that the first consists in the fact that the communion is intersubjective and interpersonal. The second is that it must grow continually and extensively until it embraces all men of good will, and intensively as well, in so far as every Christian is called to become perfect in faith, hope and charity. The third characteristic is that it tends toward its completion in eternal life, and is therefore essentially of an eschatological nature. The fourth characteristic is that it has its type and model in Mary, the member of the Church who realized union with God to the full and endeavours more than any other to extend it to all men. Therefore "in the measure in which the Church is Marian, she is a pure figure immediately discernible and comprehensible."

The mission of the Church is fulfilled through the exercise of various ministries and services. The fundamental law is this: "all the ministries not only aim to create communion but are endowed for communion, communion in the exercise of multiple and varied ministries." In other words all those who fulfil a service must carry it out as ministers in communion with Christ and among themselves for the good of all the Christian community.

In the light of the ecclesiology of Vatican II all the members of the People of God are ministers or servants of the word of salvation, though not all in the same way. The diversity arises from the varied participation of each in the prophetical office of Christ. Baptism, because it consecrates to Christ, constitutes the first title to participation. The laity receive from Christ the right and duty to announce his Gospel. They cannot, however, in this exercise prescind from the hierarchy. The prophecy of the laity assumes its own noble form. "The Christian family", writes Nionsignor Bussi, "which piously listens to and faithfully proclaims in deeds and words the divine message, is the living force, the substantial nucleus of the people of God."

The ways are also diverse according to the various personal, professional, cultural situations in which the disciple of Christ finds himself. There is that of the hierarchy and laity, of the young and the old, of the philosopher and the man of letters, of the teacher and the journalist.

For Monsignor Bussi, as for Father Grasso, the. need for evangelization is at the root of theological renewal—no longer a theology for a world socially Christian as in the medieval age but for a world "secularized." It must be resolutely centered and structured within the Christian mystery, in union with God and man through Christ. Thus renewed, theology must be extended to all the potential means of evangelization.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
5 December 1968, page 11

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