In a parish hall, a catechist patiently explains to a group of adults what the Eucharist is all about. In an office, a co-worker promises to include the intentions of his colleague in the current novena he is praying. At home, a mother patiently corrects her children and tells them the importance of obedience in God’s eyes.
These are a few examples of ordinary lay Catholics who, in their own little ways, contribute to the Church’s mission of evangelization. They may not be priests, nuns or religious, but that does not stop them from sharing and living out the Gospel in their day-to-day lives. Indeed, they are fulfilling the Great Commission — Jesus’ missionary mandate to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
The Laity’s Role
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (897), the laity is —
All the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church. That is, the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God…and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World.
The Church recognizes the importance of the laity, who make up most of the Church. In Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the role of the laity is further defined:
By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the spirit to the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they must manifest Christ to others.
Because the laity is found in every sphere of society, they have a special mandate to reach out to those in their own spheres, to take on that responsibility of bringing Christ to these areas. And it does not have to be in grand ways; rather, it is so simple and doable, and yet so amazing that the laity can “contribute to the sanctification of the world” by “fulfilling their own particular duties” as mentioned above.
An article in Catholic Digest even streamlined it in three steps: “Know the Faith. Live the Faith. Share the Faith” (http://www.catholicdigest.com/articles/faith/trends/2013/04-03/what-is-the-new-evangelization).
Why a New Evangelization?
The term “new evangelization” was first coined by St John Paul II when he made a historic visit to Poland in 1979, proclaiming, “A new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever.”
In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, he said that “the new evangelization is very much tied up with entering a new missionary age, which will become a radiant day bearing an abundant harvest, if all Christians…respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of or time.”
This new evangelization is necessary because, although many people have been evangelized in the past, the pace and culture of the modern world has been influenced and inundated with such secularism that individuals need to be re-evangelized within that context.
By virtue of Baptism, one is brought into the Family of God with the duty to further His purposes on earth. It takes a process of growth and formation, all the while being among members of the Church, drawing ever closer to the Good News — Christ Himself.
How can you take part in this great work of evangelization? Where you are already gives a clue as to how to you can live it out.