The New Evangelization

11/29/2011

The Gospel demands not only an intellectual assent, but also the ‘yes’ of our hearts

by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

Carl A. Anderson

In his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Blessed John Paul II wrote, “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization. … No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty” (3).

Since these words were written, the challenge of a new evangelization has grown. The conversation within the Church regarding “this supreme duty” will reach a high point next year when a World Synod of Bishops meets to study this theme.

For those of us who are not theologians, we might reflect on a statement from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 Christmas message to understand why the Church is focusing attention on a new evangelization. “If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power,” the pope wrote. “But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the ‘yes’ of our hearts.”

We can easily see that mathematics forces us to accept the truth it presents — two plus two must always equal four, and the sum of the angles of a triangle must always equal 180 degrees. The difficulty today is that many in our secular society are so caught up in this “scientific” way of thinking that they insist that God, too, must reveal himself to us in this way. And when he does not, they deny his existence.

But God does not present himself according to our plan; he presents himself according to his plan. And this, very simply, is the meaning of Christmas.

God reveals himself in the poverty of a manger in Bethlehem precisely to make clear that he will not impose himself on us. He comes as a child who is powerless, who is totally helpless. At that very instant, he is capable of evoking in us not merely an intellectual assent, but also, in the pope’s words, a “yes of our hearts” to a reality that “surpasses even our most daring hope.”

We glimpse this truth in the birth of every child whose parents realize that they are called by their child’s existence to love in a new way — a way that surpasses their prior experience and expectations. A helpless child can impose nothing but, merely by his presence, has the power to make an inestimable gift to his parents — the gift of awakening in them a greater love. And so the child, who has been given the gift of life by his parents, reciprocates in a mysterious way, giving his parents the gift of a greater life.

This is one reason why Blessed John Paul II placed such special emphasis on the family. He constantly reminded us that God, who is a communion of three persons, has in a mysterious way impressed the divine image within the very structure of family life.

The “yes of the heart” that the child evokes from his parents reveals in the natural order the mystery of human love that has the capacity through grace to respond with a similar “yes of the heart” to God.

A Truth that is Love calls not merely for an intellectual assent, but for a commitment of the entire person. It calls each of us to become more fully the person God intended by awakening our capacity to love in a greater way.

The communication of this Truth that is Love calls for the witness of those who have said “yes” with their hearts and whose “yes” can be seen in the example of their daily lives.

This is why the example of each brother Knight is vital to the new evangelization. Through our dedication to our principles of charity, unity and fraternity, we can express in a practical way this “yes of the heart.” Our works of charity can be a charity that evangelizes, expressing to those around us the Truth that is Love.

Vivat Jesus!