THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
ON TRACK WITH THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
Fr. Cantalamessa’s first Lenten homily reflects many
of the elements that we as the community of CFC-FFL have taken
up in our response to the New Evangelization.
is the work of the whole people of God. Every Catholic
must share Christ. CFC-FFL is an evangelistic and missionary
community. Through LCSC we intend to mainstream Catholic
is important and critical is “a renewed personal
encounter with Jesus Christ.” Adults need to “make
a personal choice for Christ.” This happens through
the Christian Life Seminar, where nominal Catholics meet
Christ and begin to live Christ.
is great “urgency of a New Evangelization.”
We intend to do a truly massive work of proclaiming the
gospel through LCSC.
look to the great majority of Christians who are nominal
and non-practicing. We intend to do our share in reaching
out to the 99 lost sheep that are in the peripheries.
great importance are “ecclesial movements, lay aggregations
and renewed parish communities.” We are a lay ecclesial
movement helping renew and equip parishes through the
are “at the service of others, to the social commitment
and to the poor.” We have a preferential option
for the poor and intend to do massive work with the poor
through the No One in Need (NONe) movement.
We are on track. Onward to the New Evangelization!
Father Cantalamessa's 1st Lent Homily 2015
Joy of the Gospel Fills the Heart and Life"
February 27, 2015 (Zenit.org) - Here is the first Lenten homily
given this year by the preacher of the Pontifical Household,
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
* * *
this first meditation of Lent, I would like to take advantage
of the Holy Father’s absence, to propose a reflection
on his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, which
I would not have dared to do in his presence. Obviously, it
will not be a systematic comment, but only a reflection together
to make our own some of his qualifying points.
Personal Encounter with Jesus of Nazareth
at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization,
the Exhortation presents three
poles of interest, which are intertwined: the subject, the
object and the method of the evangelization: who must evangelize,
what must be evangelized, how should one evangelize.
In regard to the evangelizing subject, the Pope says that
it is constituted by all the baptized:
“In virtue of their baptism, all
the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples
(Cf. Matthew 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their
position in the Church or their level of instruction in the
faith, are agents of evangelization,
and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization
to be carried out by professionals, while the rest of the
faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization
calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the
baptized” (nr. 120).
affirmation is not new; it was expressed by Blessed Paul VI
in Evangelii nuntiandi and by Saint John Paul II
in Christifideles laici; Benedict XVI insisted on
the special role reserved in it for the family. Even before
all this, the universal call to evangelization was proclaimed
with the decree Apostolicam actuasitatem of Vatican Council
II. I once heard an American layman begin his intervention
on evangelization thus: “Two thousand five hundred Bishops,
gathered in the Vatican, wrote to me to come to proclaim the
Gospel.” All, of course, were curious to know who he
was. And then he, who was also a man full of humor, explained
that the two thousand five hundred Bishops were those gathered
in the Vatican for the Second Vatican Council and who had
written the document on the apostolate of the laity. He was
absolutely right: that document was not addressed to all or
to none; it was addressed to every baptized person and he
took it, rightly so, as addressed personally to him.
it is not on this point that one must look for the novelty
of Pope Francis’ Evangelii gaudium. He only
confirms what his predecessors inculcated over and over. The
novelty is to be sought elsewhere: in the appeal he addresses
to the readers at the beginning of the letter and which, I
believe, constitutes the heart of the whole document:
invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to
a renewed personal encounter
with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness
to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this
unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation
is not for him or her” (EG, nr. 3).
means that the ultimate purpose
of evangelization is not the transmission of a doctrine, but
an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.
The possibility of such a face to face encounter depends on
the fact that Jesus, risen,
is alive and desires to walk next to every believer,
as he really walked with the two disciples on the road to
Emmaus; more than that, as he was in their very heart, when
they returned to Jerusalem, after having received him in the
Catholic language, “the personal encounter with Jesus”
has never been a very familiar concept.
Preferred instead of “personal” encounter was
the idea of ecclesial encounter, which occurs, namely, through
the sacraments of the Church. To our Catholic ears, the expression
had vaguely Protestant resonances. Obviously the Pope is not
thinking of a personal encounter that substitutes the ecclesial.
He only wishes to say that the ecclesial encounter must also
be free, willed, and spontaneous, not purely nominal, juridical
understand what it means to have a personal encounter with
Jesus, it is necessary to give a look, however rough, to the
history of the Church. How did one become Christian in the
first three centuries of the Church? With all the differences
from individual to individual and from place to place, it
happened after a long initiation, the catechumenate, and it
was the fruit of a personal decision, moreover, a risky one
because of the possibility of martyrdom.
changed when Christianity became first a tolerated religion
(Constantine’s Edict of 313) and then, in a brief time,
a favored religion when not in fact imposed. At the beginning
of the 5th century the Emperor Theodosius II issued a law
according to which only the baptized could access public offices.
Added to this is the fact of the Barbarian invasions that
in a brief time changed completely the political and religious
order of the empire. Western Europe became an ensemble of
Barbarian kingdoms, in some cases with an Arian population,
in the majority pagan.
the regions of the old empire (above all in the East and south
central Italy) to become Christian was no longer the decision
of the individual but of society, so much so that Baptism
was now administered almost always to children. As regards
the Barbarian kingdoms, the custom prevailed in them of following
the decision of the head. When on Christmas Eve of 498 or
499 Clovis, King of the Franks, had himself baptized at Rheims
by the Bishop, Saint Remy, all the people followed him. (It
is the reason why France had the title “Eldest Daughter
of the Church”). Thus began the practice of mass baptisms.
Well before the Protestant Reformation the norm: “Cuius
regio eius et religio” was in progress:
the religion of the king is also that of the kingdom.
this situation, the accent is no longer put on the moment
or on the way in which one became Christian, namely on the
coming to the faith, but on the moral exigencies of the faith
itself, on the change of customs, in other words, on morality.
Despite everything, the situation was less grave than might
appear to us today because, with all the inconsistencies that
we know, the family, the school, the culture and little by
little also the society, still helped, almost spontaneously,
to absorb the faith. Without counting that, since the beginning
of the new situation, forms of life were born, such as monasticism
and then various Religious Orders in which baptism was lived
in all its radicalism and Christian life was the fruit of
a personal, often heroic, decision.
situation so-called “of Christianity” changed
radically and it is not the case here to pause to illustrated
the times and ways of the change. Suffice it to know that
it was no longer as it was in past centuries, in which the
greater part of our traditions and our mentality itself were
formed. The advent of modernity, initiated with humanism,
accelerated by the French Revolution and the Enlightenment,
the emancipation of the State from the Church, the exaltation
of individual freedom and of self-determination and, finally,
the radical secularization that has resulted, have changed
profoundly the situation of the faith in society.
the urgency of a new evangelization,
namely, of an evangelization that moves from bases that are
different from the traditional ones and that takes into account
the new situation. It is, in practice, about creating for
the men of today occasions that enable them to take, in the
new context, that free, personal and mature decision that
Christians took at the beginning on receiving baptism, and
that made them real, not nominal, Christians.
to respond to the new needs?
are not, of course, the first to pose the problem. Not to
go too far back again, we recall the institution in 1972 of
the Ritual of the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which
proposes a kind of catechumenal path for the baptism of adults.
In some countries with mixed religions, where many persons
ask for the baptism as adults, this instrument has revealed
itself of great efficacy.
what should be done for the
mass of Christians that are already baptized, who live as
Christians purely in name and not in fact, completely estranged
from the Church and from the sacramental life?
The answer to this problem came more from God himself than
from human initiative, and it is the innumerable ecclesial
movements, lay aggregations and renewed parish communities,
which appeared after the Council. The common contribution
of all this reality, though in a great variety of styles and
of numeric consistency, is that they are the context or the
instrument, which allows so many adult
persons to make a personal choice for Christ,
to take their baptism seriously, to become active subjects
of the Church.
John Paul II saw in these Movements and living parish communities
“the signs of a new spring of the Church.” In
Novo millennio ineunte he wrote: “Of great
importance for communion is the duty to promote the various
aggregative realities, whether in the more traditional
forms, or in the newer ones of Ecclesial Movements, which
continue to give to the Church a vivacity that is a gift of
God and constitutes an authentic “spring of the Spirit.”
Benedict XVI expressed himself in the same way on different
occasions. In the homily of the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday
of 2012, he said:
looks at the history of the post-Conciliar period can recognize
the dynamic of true renewal, which has often assumed unexpected
forms in Movements full of life, which render almost tangible
the inexhaustible vivacity of the Holy Church, the presence
and the effective action of the Holy Spirit.”
Gospel Fills with Joy the Heart and Life of the Believer
we now turn to Pope Francis’ letter. It begins with
the words from which the title of the document is taken: ‘the
joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter
Jesus. There is a connection between the personal encounter
with Jesus and the experience of the joy of the Gospel. The
joy of the Gospel is only experienced by establishing
an intimate relationship, from person to person, with Jesus
we do not want the words to remain only words, at this point
we must ask ourselves a question: why is the Gospel a source
of joy? Is the expression only a comfortable slogan or does
it correspond to truth? In fact, still before: why is the
Gospel called: euangelion, that is, happy news, beautiful,
joyful news? The best way to discover it is to begin from
the moment this word makes its first appearance in the New
Testament, in fact, on Jesus’ mouth. At the beginning
of his Gospel, Mark summarizes in a few words the fundamental
message that Jesus was preaching in the cities and villages
where he went after his Baptism in the Jordan:
after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching
the Gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the
Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
first sight this is not, in fact, “happy” news,
joyful news. It sounds, rather, like a severe call, an austere
appeal to change. It is proposed to us in this sense at the
beginning of Lent, in the Gospel of the First Sunday, and
by some it accompanies the rite of ashes on the head: “Repent
and believe in the Gospel!” Therefore, it is vital to
understand the true sense of this beginning of the Gospel.
real meaning of the message of Jesus has been obscured because
of an inexact translation of the original Greek word metanoeite.
The Latin vulgate translated it with paenitemini
in Mark 1,15, and with paenitentiam agite in Acts 2, 38, that
is, do penance. With this ascetic content the term has been
received in the common language of the Church and its preaching,
while the true meaning of the word is “repent”,
“turn your mind around”, be aware of what is happening.
to Jesus, to convert meant always to “go back”
(as the term itself indicates, used in Hebrew, for this action,
namely the term shub); it meant to return to the
violated covenant, through a renewed observance of the law.
Through the mouth of the prophet Zechariah: “return
to me […] Return from your evil ways and from your evil
deeds” (Zechariah 1:3-4; Cf. also Jeremiah:
8_4-5). Consequently to be converted had a primarily ascetic,
moral and penitential meaning, and it was effected by changing
one’s conduct of life. Conversion was seen as a condition
for salvation; the meaning was: be converted and you will
be saved; be converted and salvation will come to you.
was, finally, the predominant meaning that the word conversion
had on the lips of John the Baptist (Cf. Luke 3:4-6).
However, on Jesus’ lips this meaning changed, not because
Jesus enjoyed changing the meaning of the words, but because
with him the reality changed. The moral meaning becomes secondary
(at least at the beginning of his preaching), in regard to
a new meaning, unknown until now. To be converted no longer
meant to go back; it meant, rather, to take a leap forward
and to enter, through faith, in the kingdom of God who came
among men. To be converted is to take the so-called “decision
of the hour,” in face of the realization of God’s
converted and believe” does not mean two different and
successive things, but the same action: be converted, that
is, believe; be converted by believing! Saint Thomas Aquinas
also affirms this: “Prima conversio fit per fidem,”
the first conversion consists in believing. Conversion
and salvation have exchanged places. No longer: sin –
conversion – salvation (Convert and you will be
saved; convert and salvation will come to you”), but,
rather: sin – salvation – conversion
(Convert because salvation has come to you”). Men have
not changed; they are not better or worse than before; it
is God who has changed and who, in the fullness of time, sent
his Son, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Cf. Galatians
Many evangelical parables do no more than confirm this happy
initial proclamation. One such is that of the banquet. A king
gave a banquet for his son’s wedding. At the appointed
time, he sent his servants to call the guests (Cf. Matthew
22:1 ff.). They had not paid the price before, as is done
in social dinners. It is only a question of accepting or refusing
the invitation. Another is the parable of the lost sheep.
Jesus ends it with the word: “Just so, I tell you, there
will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”
(Luke 15:10). However, in what did the conversion
of the sheep consist? Perhaps it returned to the sheepfold
with its own legs? No, the shepherd that went to bring it
back brought it back to the sheepfold on his shoulders. All
that it could do was to let itself be taken on his shoulders.
the Letter to the Romans (3:21 ff.), Saint Paul is the indomitable
herald of this extraordinary evangelical novelty, after Jesus
made him experience the dramatic event of his life. He re-evokes
the fact, which changed the course of his life, thus:
whatever gain I had [to be circumcised, Jewish, irreproachable
as to the observance of the law], I counted as loss for the
sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because
of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For
his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count
them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found
in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law,
but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness
of God that depends on faith” (Philippians
why the Gospel is called Gospel and why it is source of joy.
It tells us of a God that, out of pure grace, has come to
meet us in his Son Jesus. A God who “so loved the world
that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should
not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
remember from the Gospel almost solely Jesus’ phrase:
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew
16:24) and they convince themselves that the Gospel is synonymous
with suffering and self-denial, and not with joy. However,
let us deepen the discourse: “follow me,” where?
To Calvary, to death on the cross? No, this is the penultimate
stage in the Gospel, not the last one. Follow me, through
the cross, to the resurrection, to life, to joy without end!
Faith, Works and the Holy Spirit
do we not in this way reduce the Gospel to a single dimension,
to that of faith, neglecting works? And how can we reconcile
the explanation just given with the other passages of the
New Testament, where the word conversion is addressed to one
who has already believed? To the Apostles who had been following
him for so time, Jesus said one day: “Truly, I say to
you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never
enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
In Revelation, John repeats to each one of the seven Churches
the imperative “be converted” (metanoeson),
where the unequivocal meaning of the word is: return to the
fervor you had at the beginning, be vigilant, do the works
you did at first, stop indulging in the illusion of being
all right with God, come out of your tepidness! (Cf. Revelation
matter is explained with a simple analogy with what happens
in physical life. The child can do nothing to be conceived
in the mother’s womb; it is in need of the love of two
parents who have given it life; however, once it has come
to the light it must put its lungs to work, breathe, suck
milk, otherwise the life it received is extinguished. Saint
James’ phrase is understood in this sense: “faith
apart from works is dead” (James 2:26), in
the sense, that is, that without works faith “dies.”
is also the sense that Catholic theology has always given
to the Pauline definition of “faith that renders itself
active through love” (Galatians 5:6). We are
not saved by good works, but we are not saved without good
works: thus we can summarize what the Council of Trent states
on this point, and which the ecumenical dialogue renders ever
more widely shared between Christians.
Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation reflects this synthesis
between faith and works. After having begun speaking of the
joy of the Gospel that fills the heart, in the body of the
letter he recalls all the great “no’s” that
the Gospel pronounces against egoism, injustice, the idolatry
of money, and all the great “yes’s” that
it spurs us to say at the service
of others, to the social commitment and to the poor.
It demonstrates that the personal encounter with Jesus, of
which he spoke to us at the beginning of the letter, is altogether
different from an intimistic and individualistic experience;
it becomes, on the contrary, the main spring for evangelization
and personal sanctification.
the need for commitment, which the Gospel implies does not
attenuate the promise of joy with which Jesus began his ministry
and the Pope begins his Exhortation, rather, it reinforces
it. That grace that God offered men sending his Son into the
world, now that Jesus is dead and is risen and has sent the
Holy Spirit, does not leave the believer alone prey to the
exigencies of the law and of duty; but does in him and with
him, through grace, what it commands him. It makes him “overjoyed
also in tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
is the certainty with which Pope Francis concludes his Exhortation.
The Holy Spirit, he reminds, “helps us in our weakness”
(Romans 8:26) (EG, nr. 280.). He is our great resource.
The joy promised by the Gospel is the fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:21), and it is not maintained except
thanks to a continuous contact with him.
a recent meeting of leaders of the Charismatic Fraternity,
Pope Francis used the example of what happens in human breathing.
It takes place in two phases: there is inspiration,
with which one receives air and expiration, when
air goes out. He said they are a good symbol of what should
happen in the spiritual organism. Through prayer, meditation
of the Word of God, the sacraments, mortification, and silence,
we inhale the oxygen that is the Holy Spirit; we diffuse the
Spirit when we go out towards others in the proclamation of
the faith and in works of charity.
Lenten Season we have just begun is, par excellence, the time
of inspiration. At this time, we take deep breaths;
we fill the lungs of our soul with the Holy Spirit and thus,
without our realizing it, our breath will have the scent of
Lent to all!
English translation by ZENIT
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 Benedict XVI, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical
Council for the Family of 2011.
 Novo millennio ineunte, 46.
 Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-II
ae, q. 113, a, 4.
 Address to the members of the “Catholic Fraternity
of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships,”
Friday, October 31, 2014.