Chapter II: What is Evangelization? No. 23: A Vital Commitment within a Community
In the last number, no. 22, it was said that the proclamation of the Gospel is not the whole of evangelization. For evangelization to be complete the hearers must also accept the proclamation. Only then has the proclamation reached its goal. Only then is it complete.
The hearer accepts, or at least should accept, the proclamation on two levels. The first level is the personal one. The hearer realizes after a while that the acceptance of the message is not just an assent to certain ideas, but also a call to an entirely new way of life.
This new way of life is a personal commitment to the truths announced in the proclamation of the Gospel. This is the “conversion” of which most converts speak. It’s a new way of seeing things as Jesus Christ sees them.
But it is more than that. The convert also sees himself as part of this “new world” and as called to a transformation of himself. It is basically a transformation into a likeness of Christ.
There is a second level of acceptance, the community level. The hearer of the proclamation commits himself also to the reign of God, which includes a “new manner of life in community.” It is life in the community of the faithful, the Catholic Church, the beginning of the reign of God.
Here is how one convert sees the Church:
“When I entered the Catholic Church, I discovered I was entering far more than just an organization of sincere Christians. I was entering something that had a life of its own - that pulsated with something infinitely transcending the combined lives of all its members. I was entering not simply an organization but a body - the Mystical Body of Christ” (Kevin Lowry, How God Hauled me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, [2016: Our Sunday Visitor, p. 117]).
The document calls the Church “a sign of new and transformed life” and “the visible sacrament of salvation.” It is a sign of transformed life and a sacrament of salvation in the sense that the seven sacraments are outward signs that confer grace. She is not only a sign of a transformed life and salvation, but she confers the graces needed for these things.
She contains within herself “many other signs which prolong and explain the basic sign, which is the Church herself.” The principal signs among the “many other signs” within the Church are the seven sacraments.
Therefore, no. 23 ends with the sentence: “Because of the dynamism inherent in evangelization, he who accepts the Gospel as the word of life will normally express his acceptance in sacramental signs, namely, commitment to the Church and reception of the sacraments which manifest and support that commitment through the grace they bestow.”
Mary, be with our missionaries. Grant them love, perseverance and courage. Let them reap a rich harvest of souls. Amen.