Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Evangelii Nuntiandi 2

Last post I commented on Pope Paul VI's 1975 encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World). As I said at the end, he commented on economic matters as pertaining to the Church. The 1970's were a turbulent time in the developing world. People were becoming restless for justice, and Liberation Theology was spreading. This point of view followed Marxism to some degree. It taught that the struggle against poverty may sometimes have to take the form of physical action against upper classes. Unfortunately, some of this philosophy led to armed conflict, as in the case of several Central American countries with disastrous results.

In this encyclical, Paul makes clear that the Church has been and continues to be a force in human development. In Section 29, he says, "But evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man's concrete life, both personal and social." And in Section 31, "Between evangelization and human advancement--development and liberation--there are in fact profound links."

However, he continues "We must not ignore the fact that many, even generous Christians who are sensitive to the dramatic questions involved in the problem of liberation, in their wish to commit the Church to liberation effort are frequently tempted to reduce her mission to the dimensions of a simply temporal project" (Section 32).

Though the small groups which comprise Liberation Theology often study the Bible, they do it with an agenda of seeking a theological basis for political revolution. We may all have some pre-conceived ideas of what Christ did and said, but we need to keep our eyes open and hearts humble to gain the true wisdom that is available to us through the Bible and Church teachings.

The Pope continues in Section 32 to explain that if the Church were interested only in temporal matters, the objective would not be unique and the ideology could be molded into the political fashion of the day or be subject to temporal power as easily as governments can be. The Church has a unique mission, and that is to proclaim the Gospel.

The encyclical goes on to describe various roles of persons in the Church, such as bishop and priest, religious and lay persons and how they relate to evangelization. An interesting theme throughout the encyclical is that the people of the Church itself need constant evangelization.

My husband and I belong to a writing group. We read some of our writing out loud to the rest of the group so we can hear their critques and opinions. It can be helpful to get reactions from others, but the comments are not always on the mark. One lady reacts to most of my reading in a standard way--she says I am preaching to the choir. Of course, our Christian writing can often have the tendency to get heavy-handed, but on the other hand, Christians themselves like to think about God and enjoy when the same message is employed in different ways. I found this encyclical to reinforce the fact that we need to keep repeating the message, sometimes to each other. Then all believers can take that message to others.

I enjoyed re-reading this encyclical on evangelization in the modern world. It faces temporal reality, but points us to the reality of things beyond.

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