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The New Evangelization and Social Justice

 

What is the New Evangelization?

The New Evangelization calls all followers of Christ to be formed in the faith, celebrate the faith, and be witnesses to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the Good News to all people everywhere, starting with those in our own Church.

The work of the Church is to bring all people into relationship with God, and also to transform and sanctify the society in which we live (U.S. Catholic bishops, Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization). Thus, "the Church teaches that social justice is an integral part of evangelization, a constitutive dimension of preaching the Gospel, and an essential part of the Church's mission" (U.S. bishops, Communities of Salt and Light).

The New Evangelization and Believers' Witness of Life

During the Year of Faith, faith is to be "professed, celebrated, lived and prayed" (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 9). An essential part of living our faith is exhibiting credibility through believers' witness of life. Through their promotion of "action for justice," countless Christians have "put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favor for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19)" (no. 13). As participants in the New Evangelization, we must ask ourselves, "How do we today follow the call and summons of Jesus to seek out the stranger, heal the sick and welcome the weary?" (U.S. Catholic bishops, Disciples Called to Witness).

Quotes on the New Evangelization

Here are some quotes from documents about the New Evangelization that illustrate the strong tie between the New Evangelization and our work for life, dignity, justice and peace.

The Year of Faith is an opportunity to "put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression."
-Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 13


The New Evangelization and the Witness of Love

"The new evangelization calls every member of the church to make his or her life a proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ."

- Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, "The Deacon as an Instrument of Charity," 2011

"The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As Saint Paul reminds us: 'So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love' (1 Cor 13:13). With even stronger words – which have always placed Christians under obligation – Saint James said: 'What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled', without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith' (Jas 2:14-18)."

- Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 14

"Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ's own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. 'As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me' (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await 'new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells' (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1)."

- Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 14


Charitable Works and Social Justice Bring Us Closer to Christ

"Additionally, the works of charity and justice as well as the promotion of solidarity, justice, peace and stewardship of creation build up the kingdom of God. Increasingly, we recognize that generosity of spirit and commitment to charity and justice are vehicles to bring people into relationship with Jesus and his church. Social justice and direct service opportunities provide powerful experiences with the person of Jesus, especially for adolescents and young adults. Service, when understood as serving Christ in others and as a means to share the Gospel, has the ability to bring the server and the one being served closer to Christ."

- U.S. Catholic Bishops, Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization


The Goal of the Ecology of the Human Person

"The goal of the Church's entire educational commitment is easily identified, namely, working to construct what Pope Benedict XVI calls an 'ecology of the human person'. "There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. [...] The decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society."

- Synod of Bishops, "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, no. 21, quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 51


The New Evangelization and the Transformation of the Temporal Order

"Evangelization needs to be seen as the process through which the Church, moved by the Spirit, proclaims and spreads the Gospel in the whole world, in conformity with magisterial teaching which has been summarized in the following manner: 'urged on by charity [evangelization] penetrates and transforms the entire temporal order, acquiring and renewing cultures, and is a witness among peoples of the new way of being and living, which is basic to the Christian identity.'"

- Synod of Bishops, "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith," no. 12, quoting Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, 1997, no. 48

 

"A Christian life lived with charity and faith is the most effective form of evangelization. Evangelization testifies to the transformative power of the Gospel and the mission of the church to sanctify society…"

- U.S. Catholic bishops, Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization


In Need of Evangelization: the Economy

"The Gospel must be transmitted in the following endeavors: the duty to seek peace; the development and liberation of peoples; ... the safeguarding of the rights of persons...; support for the most vulnerable in society; and the stewardship of creation."
- Synod of Bishops, "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith"

"A fourth sector in which changes call for the Church's evangelizing activity, is the economy. On many occasions, the Magisterium of many Popes has denounced the growing disproportion in the northern and southern hemispheres in access to resources and their distribution as well as the damage to creation. The persistent economic crisis today illustrates the problem of using material forces to establish rules in a global market intended to ensure greater justice in relations among peoples. Although the communications media is giving less coverage to these problems, beginning with the plight of the poor, the Church needs to become more aware of these concerns and take concrete measures to address them."

Synod of Bishops, "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith," no. 56


In Need of Evangelization: Civil and Political Life

"In this sector [civil and political life], the Gospel must be transmitted in the following endeavors: the duty to seek peace; the development and liberation of peoples; improvement in forms of world and national governments; the construction of possible forms of listening, living together, dialogue and collaboration by various cultures and religions; the safeguarding of the rights of persons, entire peoples and, above all, minorities; support for the most vulnerable in society; and the stewardship of creation and the commitment to the future of our planet."

- Synod of Bishops, "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith," no. 57

Likewise, the U.S. Catholic bishops identify particular areas in need of the hope of the Gospel, including current instances of war, injustice, the erosion of human rights, including religious freedom, disparity in economic development, and unequal distribution of goods. They note that "the new evangelization offers hope" in the face of these problems. We must be witnesses, the bishops say, to the "transformative power of the Gospel and the mission of the Church to sanctify society" (Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization).



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