Pastoral Letter - Evangelization
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2009 No. 467
PASTORAL LETTER ON THE MISSION OF EVANGELIZATION
"The Church exists to evangelise. Without evangelization the Church has no meaning"
In the course of this "Year for Priests" a number of themes chosen by some of our Catholic Schools for their annual Mass with the Bishop, have highlighted the response which Jesus is asking us to make to the challenges of our day. Although those themes were chosen quite independently of each other, there is a common thread running through them, and that thread is quite clearly calling us to have another and a closer look at what we are doing to promote the mission of the Church, which is to bring Jesus and his Gospel into the life of everyone. The themes ranged from "Faith, Family and Future" to "You can make thedifference", to "Love in Action". While these seem, at first sight, to be completely unrelated, the common thread emerges when you consider that all of them have to do with the "core business" of the Church - evangelisation bringing the faith to every man, woman and child whom God puts in our life, taking on this task as something that every member of the Church has a duty to do, and finally doing it with love and as an act of practical love.
"The Church exists to evangelise"
In recent times there has been a lot of talk about evangelisation. Some might even think that it is something new in the Church. No one in the Archdiocese however should have that problem, because since our Diocesan Synod in September 2007 we have been having two reflection seasons each year on the theme of Evangelisation. And through the reflection material made available to' all parishioners, it has been made clear that evangelization is simply another way of describing the process of making friends with Jesus by getting to know him, his teaching and his way of life so well that we too can think, feel and live like him. This process of becoming friends with Jesus or rather allowing Jesus to make us his friend is called self-evangelisation, not because we can make it happen by ourselves but because Jesus will not do it without our open and willing co-operation. We must want it! It must be pointed out that self-evangelisation is only a first step. It is certainly not an end in itself. The next step is for each one engaged in self-evangelisation, to join with fellow parishioners in order to raise the whole parish to a higher level of friendship with Jesus. The third and final step is for the parish, together with all the parishes of the Archdiocese to live the Gospel way of life so well and so openly that as a Church we begin to evangelise all society. We show society what it means to be fully human, fully what God meant us to be.
But why am I talking to you about evangelization, when we are celebrating Mission Month? After all that's the month when we focus on collecting money for the Missions, for the Holy Childhood Society, for Peter's Pence! So what has Mission Month to do with evangelisation?
The short answer is: Everything! Mission Month is not so much about collecting money. Rather it is about each one of us living our faith more openly and at the same time doing something to make it possible for the Church in those parts of the world where it is very poor, to have the means to carry out its mission to evangelise. That does mean money too, but only after prayer and sacrifice as Jesus showed us. So you see, how working for the spread and the development ofthe Faith,especially in the Familyis a way of ensuring that we have a bright Future.But if that is to happen then each of us needs to believe that he or she can make the differencein the lives of those we live with. It will also demand that we show love in action in everything that Jesus and his Church is asking of us.
I am sure everyone who reads this pastoral letter, or who listens to it being read, will be conscious of many acts of love which God has done for him or her in the course of this year, and will therefore have good reason to playa part in making it possible for the Church to bring a similar experience into the lives of those who do not yet know God as their Father or Jesus Christ as their Friend and Saviour, or the Holy Spirit as their Comforter and Advocate.
It is this that makes Mission Month an occasion and opportunity for giving to others in gratitude for what you have received because of those who had given to us so generously in the past.
May God bless you with a successful and grace filled Mission Month.
Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM Archbishop of Durban