The Prodigal Son

What the New Evangelization Is Not!

Not an Attempt to Be Relevant

The new evangelization is not an attempt to be relevant.  Jesus Christ is the very answer to the question of the purpose of man’s existence; the Gospel and Christ’s Catholic Church are by their very nature relevant to every human person.  Moreover, the Gospel is always the same, yesterday, today and forever.  The message itself is unchanging because it is ever new.  Rather, the new evangelization is aimed at showing the relevance of Jesus Christ to people living in a de-Christianized society—to people who believe that the Gospel does not provide a compelling explanation to the meaning of life and the way we should live.  This means listening in order to understand their, often unarticulated, presuppositions about Jesus Christ, His Church and the meaning of life.  It also means responding in a way that takes into account these presuppositions.

Not a Replacement for Defective Evangelization

The new evangelization is not a replacement of a defective evangelization or the restarting of the mission of evangelization abandoned sometime in the past.  “The Church always evangelizes and has never interrupted the path of evangelization. She celebrates the eucharistic mystery every day, administers the sacraments, proclaims the word of life—the Word of God, and commits herself to the causes of justice and charity. And this evangelization bears fruit: It gives light and joy, it gives the path of life to many people; many others live, often unknowingly, of the light and the warmth that radiate from this permanent evangelization.”  However, there are those who no longer respond to this permanent evangelization. “This is why we are searching for, along with permanent and uninterrupted and never to be interrupted evangelization, a new evangelization, capable of being heard by that world that does not find access to ‘classic’ evangelization. Everyone needs the Gospel; the Gospel is destined to all and not only to a specific circle and this is why we are obliged to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to all.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers,” Jubilee of Catechists, 12 December 2000

Not a Temporary Program

The new evangelization is not a temporary program, the need for which will quickly be overcome through immediate success.  It is not an effort which will bear immediate fruits in terms of attracting large numbers of people.  “[T]his is not God’s way. For the Kingdom of God as well as for evangelization, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid (see Mark 4:31-32).  The Kingdom of God always starts anew under this sign. … New evangelization means: never being satisfied with the fact that from the grain of mustard seed, the great tree of the Universal Church grew; never thinking that the fact that different birds may find place among its branches can suffice—rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29).  Large things always begin from the small seed, and the mass movements are always ephemeral. …The large realities begin in humility. … An old proverb says: ‘Success is not one of the names of God.’ New evangelization must surrender to the mystery of the grain of mustard seed and not be so pretentious as to believe to immediately produce a large tree. We either live too much in the security of the already existing large tree or in the impatience of having a greater, more vital tree—instead we must accept the mystery that the Church is at the same time a large tree and a very small grain. In the history of salvation it is always Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the same time...”
– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers,” Jubilee of Catechists, 12 December 2000