Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Concept of Evangelization at VC II (expanded)



Cardinal Dulles points out,
Vatican I spoke rarely of evangelization. They used terms such as "missionary activity, "the propagation of the faith," and "the planting or extension of the church.". . . Building on the kerygmatic theology of the preceding decade, Vatican II made use of evangelical terminology. A comparison with Vatican I, which reflected the 19thcentury mentality, is instructive. Vatican I used the term "Gospel" (evangelium) only once and never used the terms "evangelize" or "evangelization." Vatican II, by contrast, mentioned the "Gospel" 157 times, "evangelize" 18 times and "evangelization" 31 times.
In the Second Vatican Council Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the Fathers describe the Church as the People of God. Using this image they describe the missionary mandate of the Church to proclaim the Gospel "until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing" (LG 17). Later in the Constitution the Fathers define evangelizing in the chapter on the laity as the, "announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word" and note further that this "takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world" (LG 35). They note, "Consequently, even when preoccupied with temporal cares, the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world" (LG 17).
The lay faithful are to perform the apostolate of proclaiming the Gospel both with their lives and their words "in the ordinary surroundings of the world" (LG 17). In order to be equipped for this task, the laity must "strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth", and to insistently beg God for the gift of wisdom (LG 17).
In the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Mission activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), the council Fathers refer both the work of specialized missionaries, and to the ordinary mission of the lay faithful. Specifically in discussing the cooperation of the lay faithful, they note;
Since the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God, this sacred synod invites all to a deep interior renewal; so that, having a vivid awareness of their own responsibility for spreading the Gospel, they may do their share in missionary work among the nations (Ad Gentes 35).
In the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), the specific mission of the laity is referred to as "the apostolate of evangelization and sanctification" and it is seen to both penetrate and perfect the temporal order (AA 2, 6). Specifically they state the lay faithful;
. . . exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ. (AA 2)
There are several features to note in the previous discussion. First the Church has a duty to proclaim the Gospel. This is not something new, but rather the very nature of her being. Recently the CDF issued a statement on this topic affirming the continued need to evangelize. Although there have been some who have misinterpreted the Second Vatican council documents as teaching that evangelism is not longer necessary, a close reading of the documents shows exactly the opposite. The duty to evangelize is not just a special calling for some, but the duty of all the faithful. The entire lay faithful have a special mission to carry out "the apostolate of evangelization and sanctification" in order to both penetrate and perfect the temporal order (AA 2, 6). The mission field becomes the world each of us live in, in the midst of our temporal affairs we must become the light of Christ to the nations. Even secular culture must be evangelized through the actions of the lay faithful.

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