Chapter II: What is Evangelization? No. 22: Need of Explicit Proclamation
After stating how important the witness of a Christian life is to evangelization in nos. 17-21, the Council Fathers stressed here that this witnessing, by itself, is not enough. Direct preaching of the Gospel must follow. They put it this way: “There is no authentic evangelization unless the name and teaching, the life and promises, the kingdom and mystery of Jesus the Nazarene, Son of God, are preached.” This preaching of Jesus Christ “illumens”, and “explains” the silent testimony by giving “the reason for this hope of yours” (1 Pet 3:15).
Preaching Jesus also “justifies” the silent testimony, they say. This presupposes that those giving the silent testimony give it consciously in order to convert those who see it. Those who do so are missionaries and show a great love of their neighbor, for what greater gift can we give to someone than the faith?
The Council Fathers went on to say, “The whole history of the Church, beginning with Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, is inseparable from the history of its preaching.” This statement is based on two subsequent assertions of the Council Fathers, namely, “The Church has been constantly impelled by the ardent desire to evangelize and has known but one motivating concern: Whom shall we send to announce the mystery of Jesus?”
It would make an interesting study to investigate how those two concerns, evangelization and the quality of the evangelizers, have been a preoccupation of the Church down through the centuries.
If we take preaching in its wide sense as the announcement of the mystery of Christ, we can see that the Church has always been eager to preach, e.g. in the instructions (kerygma) before adult baptism, at Mass, and in the catechesis for children after baptism. Some ages, however, have been more fervent in preaching to those who are Catholic or who are becoming Catholics. Other ages have been more interested in announcing Christ to outsiders. We call those latter ages of our Church the more missionary minded ages.
The number mentions two other preoccupations of the Church about announcing the mystery of Jesus. The first is: “In what language is this mystery to be preached?” For centuries the language of our Western Church was Latin, although the preaching and catechesis were in the local language. Through the work of Sts. Cyril and Methodius the Byzantine Church from the beginning used the local languages of the Slavic peoples it converted. Under St. Pope Paul VI our western part of the Church also began to use the local languages for the Liturgy and the sacraments.
The second preoccupation is: “How shall we make it reach and be understood by all who ought to hear it?” This is a preoccupation of the Church not only in regard to those nations that are not yet a part of our Church. It is also a preoccupation in regard to all the subgroups within each part of the Church, e.g. the young people, the educated and the various groups on the fringe of society.
Mary, queen of the missions, pray for us!