“New evangelization means becoming aware of the Father’s merciful love so that we too may become instruments of salvation for our brothers”, said the Pope this morning, as he received in audience the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, dedicated to the relationship between evangelization and catechesis. Francis has entrusted the preparation of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to this dicastery, so that it “is made clearer that the gift of mercy is the announcement that the Church is called to transmit in her work of evangelization in this time of great change”.
These changes represent a “happy provocation” to respond to “the signs of the times that the Lord offers to the Church, so that she is able – as she has been for two thousand years – to bring Jesus Christ to humanity in our times. The mission is always identical”, the Pope observed, “but the language used to proclaim the Gospel asks to be renewed, with pastoral wisdom. This is essential both for it to be understood by our peers and to enable Catholic tradition to speak to cultures in today’s world and to help them open up to the perennial fruitfulness of Christ’s message. These are times of great challenges, which we must not be afraid of making our own. Indeed, only to the extent to which we are able to take them on will we be able to offer answers which are coherent by virtue of being elaborated in the light of the Gospel. This is what people expect of the Church today: that she knows how to walk with them, offering the company of witness of faith, creating solidarity between us all, and especially the loneliest and most marginalized”.
This awareness, which is sown into the heart of every Christian from the day of his or her baptism, “wishes to grow, along with a life of grace … and it is here that we find the great theme of catechesis as a space within which the life of Christians matures as it experiences God’s mercy. This is not an abstract idea of mercy, but rather a concrete experience by which we understand our weakness and the strength that comes from above. … The help we invoke is already the first step of God’s mercy towards us. … The Holy Spirit, the agent of evangelization … opens the mind of the disciples of Christ to understand more deeply the commitment required and the forms by which substance and credibility can be given to witness”.
Therefore the question of how to educate in faith “is not rhetorical, but essential. The answer requires courage, creativity and decisiveness, to follow at times unexplored paths. Catechesis, as a component of the evangelization process, needs to go beyond the merely scholastic sphere in order to educate believers, since childhood, in encountering Christ, living and working in His Church. It is the encounter with Him that inspires the desire to know Him better and thus to follow Him so as to become His disciples. The challenge of new evangelization and catechesis therefore hinges on this cardinal point: how to encounter Christ, and the most coherent place to find Him and follow Him”.