The New Evangelization is a task of apostolic (or pastoral) action. Yet there is no authentic apostolic action that does not arise from and conform to the truth; otherwise, such action degenerates into either activism or sentimentalism. Authentic apostolic action is nothing other than acts of true love done for the love of God and for our brothers. But we must recall, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in his Encyclical Caritas in veritate (CV), that there can be no authentic love without truth (CV 3). The reason for this is to be found in the definition of love.
Love is, at root, a human act, and what makes an act human is that it arises from the intellect and will. The intellect serves to know the other and his authentic good. The will permits one to will and to act for the other’s authentic good. This is love. Without recourse to the truth of the person and what constitutes his authentic good, that is, the truth, one’s actions necessarily arise from other motivations.
While the motivation to act is always intertwined with the sentiments, if such an act is not grounded in the spiritual faculties that make the act human (i.e. the intellect and will), the acting person will become dominated by his emotions. This is simply a fact arising from the consequences of concupiscence. Such actions risk being abandoned to the caprice of one’s fickle feelings and can be aimed at goals that serve to satisfy the acting person’s emotional needs, rather than the authentic good of the person who is to be served. Sentimentalism can be seen in the ebb and flow of one’s actions toward others’ perceived needs; at times, one can act with great zeal, and at other times, one can turn away in apathy.
Closely connected to this problem is that of activism. Activism is superficial and sterile. It does not arise from the truth, but its origin is the motivation to satisfy some interior hunger, such as a need for self-assertion, for fighting against perceived injustices, for self-justification, for getting even, etc. It initially may seem satisfying, but its emptiness soon shows itself. This is due to its disassociation from the truth; it cannot, therefore, rise to the level of authentic love, and only authentic love can give rise to joy, to lasting satisfaction, that is, to self-fulfillment. Moreover, activism is perennially at risk of succumbing to the temptation to allow a perceived good end to justify any means to achieve that end. Indeed, without being grounded in the truth, there is little defense against such temptation because the identification of the authentic good itself will remain elusive.
The New Evangelization cannot be taken as an opportunity to promote one’s ideology, one’s personal opinions or one’s favorite agenda. One must be docile to the Magisterium and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Continual study, fervent prayer and daily acts of charity toward others, especially the least of our brothers, in a word, striving for holiness, are all essential to developing and maintaining the necessary docility to contribute effectively to the New Evangelization. Only through such, can we uncover the false premises we have mistakenly attached to the Church’s teaching and so purify our faith from its entanglement with our political, economic, anthropological or sociological ideologies. Only then will we be prepared to be authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ, rather than of ourselves. Evangelization is about bringing Jesus Christ to others, not to us. Without conforming ourselves to Him, we can never be as attractive as Jesus Christ.