PRINCIPLES OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
December 7, 2013
Today’s gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Knowing that he would go on to the cross and then to heaven, but with the salvation he would win on the cross needing to be proclaimed, Jesus formed his core group, as he “summoned his twelve disciples” (Mt 10:1a). Jesus was laying the foundation for the work of evangelization.
What would be the foundational principles of the work of evangelization?
First, “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Mt 9:37). Indeed the harvest would be abundant, for this is the very work of God, empowered by His Spirit. God desires that all should be saved, and that is why Jesus went to the cross. However, God decided to make Himself dependent upon man, who would be the one sent to proclaim the gospel and help bring people to meet Christ and thus merit salvation. Right here is a crossroad, a tipping point, a make-or-break situation. The harvest is prepared, but harvesters are needed. If God’s people allow themselves to be used, then there will be an abundant harvest. If not, then what God has prepared will remain unreaped. Do we then understand the great responsibility placed upon us to respond to God’s call?
Second, as evangelizers we go in the place of Jesus, doing his work, and we do so carrying his authority. Jesus “gave them authority …. to cure every disease and every illness.” (Mt 10:1c). Jesus himself had been “curing every disease and illness.” (Mt 9:35d). Now it was the disciples’ turn. We, as Jesus’ disciples, are his witnesses, his ambassadors, his stewards. We must know that this is not our human work but God’s divine work. If we allow ourselves to be God’s instruments, then He can use us mightily.
Third, as evangelizers we enter into spiritual warfare. Jesus “gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out” (Mt 10:1b). The work of evangelization is all about spiritual warfare. The world is under the dominion of the evil one, and when we assault his dominion in order to bring his captives out, then we automatically are engaged in war, as the enemy will not just cede territory or dominion. We need to put on the armor of God, and we need to wield weapons of righteousness. Our own preparation for battle is our growth in holiness and Christian perfection. We must live Christ.
Fourth, as more evangelizers needed to be developed, and as God first works with His own people before using them to reach out to the world, “Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mt 10:5-6). Though Jesus went to the cross to win salvation for all, and all are children of God (who are cut off from the Father), if the work was to be rapid, massive and worldwide, then there needed to be a particular strategy. So the disciples were first to reach out to God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Later they would also reach the Samaritans and then after that the pagans.
The work of the New Evangelization would parallel this. Now we have the new people of God, the new Israel, that is, Christians, and in particular, the Roman Catholic Church. So we must reach out first to lapsed Catholics. These are the 99 lost sheep that make up the Church. From there we can reach out to our Protestant brethren, and thence do missio ad gentes.
Fifth, since we are doing God’s work and are only instruments of God, empowered by His Holy Spirit, then we do the works that Jesus did, and greater ones than those. Faith works wonders. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” (Mt 10:8a). Often we impede the work of God by looking at ourselves and seeing how weak and feeble we are. Then we begin to lack boldness. Then we falter, and ultimately we fail at our task. But we need to look not at ourselves but on God, the all-powerful Creator, for whom nothing is impossible. We do not shortchange God by deciding to work based on what we think we can do. Rather, in faith we work based on what God is able to accomplish in and through us.
Sixth, we evangelize, we participate in the harvest, we share Christ, because we ourselves have been evangelized and thus blessed. The gift we have received we are to give as a gift. “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10:8b). Out of profound gratitude to God, out of great love for the One who loved us first and gave his life for us, realizing the great privilege of doing the very divine work of God, we must share the good news of salvation in Jesus. And we are to do so freely, without looking to any earthly reward or recognition, and in fact giving all of ourselves to this work.
Seventh, we are to evangelize with a sense of great urgency. We are in the end times. What we decide to do will have consequences on whether a soul makes it to heaven or not. Indeed, Jesus instructs, “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Mt 10:7). The work of evangelization is all about establishing God’s reign on earth, but more specially, about people experiencing the fullness of salvation through eternal life in heaven. It is entry into the Kingdom of God, our eternal home. That is what life in this world, which is our earthly pilgrimage, is all about. It is making our way to heaven.
The call to the New Evangelization has been sounded by our Church through our popes. We are to help renew and restore the people of God, and thence for the universal Church to bring the gospel to all. “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages …. proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt 9:35). The work of the New Evangelization is to be rapid, massive and worldwide. We are to be empowered to witness to the very ends of the earth.
Let us get moving.
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God bless you all.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)