Evangelism to Catholics?
“I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
Mission ad gentes means the mission to the nations – the evangelization of people who have not heard the gospel. In contrast, the “new evangelization” mentioned by Pope John Paul II here, and greatly expanded upon since then, is the other half of proclaiming Christ to all peoples – the evangelization of people who have heard the gospel, at least in part.
On the surface, one can view this new evangelization as being to peoples like the North American or European societies, who once embraced the gospel, but have abandoned it or failed to pass it down to their children. And it absolutely is that, but there is also another sense to it.
The new evangelization also refers to the evangelization of individual Catholics who have received the sacraments, but have not actually received the gospel!
This can be a bit of a mind-blowing thought, but it’s true. Many Catholics, even those who regularly attend mass, have not actually received the gospel. They have never been evangelized. They are Catholic by virtue of baptism but, in a profound sense, they need to be converted to Catholicism.
Personally, I know this to be true, not just by looking at others, but by my own experience. I went through a profound conversion when the gospel was first truly preached to me in a personal way, and I accepted it. This happened about 17 years after my baptism. What kind of conversion was this? Well, to be honest, I’m still not sure what to call it. But, I think it was a prime example of the goal of the new evangelization.
So, the question is, how do I know if I have really been converted? It’s a legitimate question for a Catholic to ask!
Advent is a season to reflect on our relationship with God, and prepare our hearts for Christ. I think it’s important for each of us to begin with the basics. Before Christmas, why not take some time for quiet prayer, and ask God to help you find the answers to these questions: Am I evangelized? Do I know and believe the core message of the Gospel? Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus?
Then, ask yourself a simple follow up question. How can I enter into a relationship with Christ, or deepen the one that I have, this Christmas?
If you’re not sure you know what the basic gospel message is, you can find more information here.
Here are some useful resources to learn more: