What is Evangelization?
Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”
Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi
What is Evangelization?
The word “evangelization” as found in the Scriptures means “communication of the evangelium, or Good News.” In order to understand what this means, we must set our gaze on Jesus Christ. In the words of Pope Paul VI, “Jesus himself, the Good News of God, was and is the greatest evangelizer”. (EN 7) When we look to Christ, we see that he is the Good News. Two thousand years ago, the Son of God became man and opened the door of salvation to the human race. Today, through the Church, Jesus Christ continues to approach each one of us, inviting us into a saving relationship with himself. The Church’s teachings, her sacramental life, and her prayer are, in truth, Christ the Lord approaching man, revealing his love, and inviting man to participate in this love. Therefore, evangelization, “bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation” (GMD 10) means permitting Christ to continue in us his ministry of gathering the world into his saving embrace.
Jesus the Evangelizer
When we contemplate Christ, we discover that he is the greatest evangelizer. He alone can teach us what it means to evangelize, how to bring the Gospel of his love “to every human situation.” When we ask the question, “How do we evangelize?”, we are asking a question about methodology. How did Jesus Christ evangelize? How did he proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven? How did Christ transform those around him?
“When I am lifted up,
I will draw all men to myself.”
In this passage from the Gospel of John, we find God’s methodology for evangelization revealed. Here, Jesus is referring to being “lifted up” on the Cross. We find in Christ Crucified the definitive revelation of God’s infinite love for the world. The human heart, created for this love, cannot help but be attracted, “drawn,” to this love when it is revealed. Therefore, God’s method for drawing others into life with him is by revealing his love. If we are to be effective evangelists, we must do as God himself has done. Evangelization is not first about techniques and programs. It is first about holiness. We ourselves must undergo a life of continual conversion, of discipleship in Christ through the life of the Church, so that we will be filled more and more with Christ’s love. Then, with Christ, we allow the light of that love to shine wherever we go, in action and in word. We do so trusting that in the heart of every man there lies an innate desire for this love, which will attract the heart of man and draw him to Christ. This is the basic form of evangelization, revealed to us by God Himself.