DISCIPLESHIP AND EVANGELISATION
On the 8th December 1975, the late Pope Paul VI issued his Encyclical entitled:
EVANGELIZATION IN THE MODERN WORD. (E.N.)
This was without doubt a watershed document in the recent history of the Church. The late Pope John Paul II, picking up from this document, made constant calls to “launch out into the deep.” He said in Mexico City in 1990: “The Lord and Master of history and of our destinies has wished my pontificate to be that of a pilgrim Pope of evangelisation, walking down the roads of the world, bringing to all peoples the message of salvation.”
A ship may be a beautiful sight in the harbour, but that is not what a ship was built for – it is meant to sail the oceans in both calm and stormy waters.
It is time; it has been so for many years that we are to set sail once again:
E.N. #14: “Evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelise.” That is quite disturbing – if we are not in the process of evangelising, we may as well close our doors …. in fact we have no right to exist …. we do not exist!
This is particularly true in the light of what is often said, viz. the Church is over-sacramentalised and under-evangelised! (Paul VI). The establishment of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI is a further answer to the initial call of Paul VI.
While evangelisation is a new word for most Catholics (that’s the thing the Protestants do … we have the Sacraments), the ministry of evangelisation has existed in the Church since the time of Christ. Catholics may be more familiar with the words “convert making or missionary.” However, evangelisation is a much broader ministry than making converts or working with pagans in far away places!
The word evangelisation comes to us from ancient history when a slave was chosen to bring back to the ruler the good news of victory in battle. The bearer of this good news was always granted his freedom and so he would come running, nearly dancing for joy, as he bore the good news of victory that would gain freedom for him.
What’s new? Have we not always been evangelising? Yes. Catholic parents have been introducing their children to Jesus and His Church for 2000 years; and the faith has been faithfully passed on by the hierarchy, the clergy, the religious and the laity down through the ages.
What is new about evangelisation is that Pope Paul VI called for a new awareness and a new reflection on the importance of evangelisation which resulted in a call for a specific ministry of evangelisation. One that is NEW in method, fervour and expression.
Fr Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household enlarges on this when he says that we must return to basics, we must go back to the Kerygma. (The essence, the heart.)
He says that it is a new evangelisation because it is done (as the Pope urged), in a new style, more adjusted to the needs of our times, with a new fervour, zeal and commitment, using new tools and techniques, with special reference to the mass media. It must be new in style … in humility and with love …with PASSION! How urgent this is in a society where there is a sort of “eclipse of the sense of God.” (Benedict XVI)
Let us pause awhile and consider two words – KERYGMA and PASSION.
The very essence, the heart, the whole point of Jesus coming was to bring an abundance to people’s lives by his very presence – a presence that captured hearts and minds and bodies. “I have come to give you life in abundance.” (John 10:10). This life-giving empowerment is the main thrust of evangelization – but when it loses that thrust it has lost everything.
People were drawn to his company, attracted by his humanity. Their hearts expanded in his presence; the best in them was touched. They felt good about themselves just by being around him, by being loved by him. This is the heart of the Good News and when that central excitement of being loved for who I am is withdrawn, denied or lost from the very centre of our mission, our preaching and teaching, then, whatever else we may think we are doing, we are not presenting the human Christ as he was, we are not telling the whole truth of the Christian story. We need to recapture that PASSION. We need to be singing faithfully and accurately, the saving song of Jesus.
What is the essence of this saving song? We need to be about the business of convincing people that they are unconditionally loved by a God who is utterly delighted to be intimately one with us! Who delights in being visible and tangible in human form, who desires to be known and loved in the humanity of Jesus Christ. We need to keep telling the story that God delights to be dwelling within us – to keep telling this astonishing story – in revealing to our sisters and brothers the truth about their own identity, in telling them who they really are.
Isaiah 43 verse 4:
“Since I regard you as precious, since you are honoured and I love you.”
If evangelisation has existed since the time of Christ, where did it all begin?
At the Ascension: Matthew 28:19-20:
GO… MAKE DISCIPLES… BAPTISE THEM…TEACH THEM.
This has become known as THE GREAT COMMISSION. Sadly, it has in recent times been spoken of as The Great Omission!
GO is a command – NOT an option!
(1514 times in the Bible; 233 times in the New Testament and 54 times in the Gospel of Matthew).
These are times of emergency – times that must be met with dynamic and immediate action.
The command is to GO and make DISCIPLES – not members!
The Church already has too many members.
Take the member of a social club of whom basically three things are required:
1/ Attend the AGM and one or two other meetings. 2/ Pay subs. 3/ Live according to the rules of the club.
We have taken this and transferred it onto the Church! We ask the parishioners to:
1/ Attend the AGM (Easter, Christmas and maybe one or two other celebrations/meetings. 2/ Pay the subs by putting money in the collection. 3/ try to live according to the rules/the commandments.
And we think we have disciples!
A DISCIPLE IS A CARBON COPY OF THE MASTER.
Our Master is Jesus Christ and it is our vocation to be His carbon copies, His disciples. This implies so much more than the above. It implies CONVERSION [ongoing process]– a changing of the mind and heart and then accepting this Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour!!!!!
The order of the instruction given by Jesus is critically important. After we have made disciples, we then BAPTISE and THEN we TEACH.
We have missed the critical step …… MAKING DISCIPLES! We go ahead and we baptise (over-sacramentalised) and then we do some teaching in Catechism or RCIA – and we hope, faintly, that they will become disciples.
DISCIPLES MAKE DISCIPLES –MEMBERS MAKE MEMBERS!
Today we tend to blame the prevalent culture for our dwindling numbers, lack of success. We denounce its individualism, secularism, hedonism and any ISM. Yes, these do render the environment unfriendly to proclaim the Gospel – BUT we tend to overlook the deep spiritual hunger that stirs in the hearts of men and women today. Disconnected with a civilisation of gadgets and entertainment, many are looking for meaning in life. (Need for Spirituality Centres to help get in touch with that Still Point in this turning world.)
Very often today Christians and the ChristianChurches are too cool, forgetting the warning of Jesus: “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) We do not seem to realise that the Father’s house is on fire with his beloved children inside! It is not time for just another quiet chat or another Workshop or Assembly.
The mission to evangelise is urgent. We are searching for the lost sheep of Christ, and there are wolves out there! A roaring lion is on the prowl; looking for those he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). The world is in mourning and we must roll back the stone to unveil the Risen Christ for the entire world to see. Without Him there is only darkness. Many people have totally lost their way. And we must bring them home as children of God. They could die without ever coming to know their heavenly Father. When they stand before Him in judgement they will not recognise Him, so how can they choose Him and the life He offers?
What is our job? Why are we sent? Why does Jesus tell us GO? Because He wants us to “open the eyes of those to whom I am sending you, to turn them from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God, that through their faith … they may obtain forgiveness of their sins and a portion among God’s people.” (Acts 26:16-18)
As Paul exclaimed: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! … I am entrusted with a commission … I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more. To the Jews I became a Jew; in order to win Jews … to the weak I became weak that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I might by all means save some.”
(1 Cor. 9:16-22)
Pope John Paul frequently reminded us that our task today is especially urgent: “The urgency of the church’s mission is obvious. What moves me even more strongly to proclaim the urgency of missionary evangelisation is the fact that it is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world, a world which…seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself.” (RM # 2 and 3) Mission of the Redeemer Encyclical.
WHAT IS EVANGELISATION?
Evangelization is really about something very simple, wonderful and exciting. It is about being truly human, each in our own unique way, and thus translating and interpreting God’s love story in the language of our modern age and so helping people read that same story in the wonder of their own being.(Fr Kevin Kelly)
#26: To evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit; to bear witness that in his Son God has loved the world – that in his Incarnate Word he has given being to all things and has called men to eternal life.
Blessed Mother Theresa:
IT MEANS HAVING JESUS PRESENT IN MY HEART AND MAKING HIM PRESENT IN THE HEARTS OF OTHERS.
Pope Francis: Evangelising means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did. Bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world.
It is a process:
Bringing the Good News to all strata of humanity and transforming humanity from within. (EN # 18)
- The Church seeks to upset mankind’s criteria of judgement…when they are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation. (#19)
- People (cultures) must be regenerated by an encounter with the Gospel (the person of Jesus). (#20)
- The Gospel must be proclaimed by the witness of a Christian life. (#21)
- There is no evangelisation if the name, the teaching, the life (divinity), the promises, the kingdom and the mystery (= no predictable pattern to his work/healing) of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed. (#22)
- The proclamation must be listened to, accepted and assimilated, and evoke a genuine commitment to the Church. (#23)
- The person evangelised goes on to evangelise others. (#24)
Evangelisation is the proclamation by word and deed of God’s Kingdom – thus liberating a person from all that is oppressive, by accepting God’s free gift of GRACE.
What is a disciple?
A Disciple is a learner. In other words, anyone who follows or imitates the teaching of another. This in turn implies acceptance of the teacher’s ideas. (More than ideas)!
A disciple or learner of Jesus Christ fundamentally must have the characteristic of being teachable. Matthew 11: 25-30. We are to learn from Jesus Christ.
We are to become a carbon copy of the Master.
We are called to be learners. The way to become a learner is to find a teacher, a model. The perfect model is Jesus. Jesus tells us how he is a model in John 5:9 and John 8:28. Jesus tells us that he does not do anything he does not see the Father do. He does not say anything he does not hear the Father say. In John 20 he tells us: “as the Father sent me, so I send you.”
A disciple is also a follower. A disciple follows where his leader leads. To do that, the disciple must be available. He decides that no matter what the sacrifice, nothing will dissuade him from following the teacher. Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27. We must follow where Christ leads, whatever it costs.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is a process. Being a disciple does not mean you have arrived or matured. The process begins with conversion and continues for the rest of a person’s life.
Finally, a disciple is under the authority of Christ. As Jesus is under the authority of the Father, so we are to be under the authority of Christ. He becomes the authority in our lives. We are guided NOT by our feelings, circumstances or desires.
SHIPWRECK: A PARABLE
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.
Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They believed that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crew brought in loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos, so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore.
Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown!
And the Lord said: “Go.”
And I said: “Who…me?”
And He smiled: “Yes…you.”
And I said:
“But I am not ready yet.
And there’s company coming.
And I can’t leave the children.
And you know there is no one to take my place.”
And He smiled: “Are you sure?”
And the Lord said, “Go.”
And I said:
“But I don’t want to.”
And He smiled:
“I didn’t ask if you wanted to.”
And I said:
“Listen, I am not the kind of person
to get involved in controversies.
Besides, my family won’t like it,
and what will the neighbours think?”
And He smiled:
“I know well.”
And yet a third time the Lord said: “Go.”
And I said:
“Do I have to?”
And He smiled:
“Do you love me?”
And I said:
“Look, I’m scared.
People are going to hate me,
and cut me into pieces.
And I can’t take it all by myself.”
And He smiled:
“Where do you think I will be?”
And the Lord said: Go.”
And I smiled:
“Here I am Lord,