“EVANGELII GAUDIUM”: ITS PASTORAL IMPLICATIONS

“EVANGELII GAUDIUM”: ITS PASTORAL IMPLICATIONS
A PAPER PRESENTED AT A THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY
THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF NIGERIA

1.      INTRODUCTION

Throughout the history of the Church from the upper room in Jerusalem to the shores of North Africa to the streets of Rome, the interpretation of the Catholic faith and how to live it have been questions of discernment. However, the gift of authentic interpretation “given to the magisterium has assured us that in whatever condition the Church finds herself the content of our faith remains unchanged. Evangelization always preserves the theological reality lest it be reduced to an act of personal opinion. At the same time, today’s vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness. The Gospel is never silent on any matter of human affairs. The expression of truth can take different forms. The renewal of these forms of expression becomes necessary for the sake of transmitting to the people of today the Gospel message in its unchanging meaning. The Church is herself a missionary disciple; she needs to grow in her interpretation of the revealed word and in her understanding of truth[1]. In doing this it does not mean changing the Gospel so that it fits or corresponds to the human condition. There is no expiration date on any aspect of Gospel.  Yet the holy intent of communicating the truth about God and humanity has great relevance for the preaching of the Gospel, if we are really concerned to make its beauty more clearly recognized and accepted by all with joy.


2.      THE MESSAGE OF JOY IN THE BIBLE

The message of joy percolates the entire creation history. From the beginning, it is the Will of God that man would be happy. In the Genesis account of creation, God created man in his own image and likeness. Male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth, the plant, the seed ... for food (Gen. 1:27-29).
And the LORD God also planted a garden in Eden (a habitation), there he put the man whom he had formed (Gen. 2:8). So God created man to be happy just as God himself was happy seeing all his creation.
Again and again, God intervened in the human history in order to restore joy and happiness to man. This was portrayed in the Exodus event and the crossing of the red sea by the people of Israel (Exodus 3-14), which brought joy to the chosen people. Thus they sang: “I will sing to the Lord glorious us his name” (Ex. 15). This joy is also recorded in the Ps. 126:
When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage it seemed like a dream, then our mouth was filled with laughter and our lips with song.
The Holy Father Pope Francis attested that the books of the Old Testament predicted that the joy of salvation would abound in messianic times. In the exultant words of the prophet Isaiah we read: “You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy” (Is. 9:3). Isaiah exhorts those who dwell on Zion to go forth to meet him with song: “Shout aloud and sing for joy!” (Is. 12:6). For Isaiah, all creation shares in the joy of salvation. Thus he admonished as follows: Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth! Break forth, O mountains, into singing…” (Is. 49:13), Confer also, the biblical passages of Zechariah 9:9; Zephaniah 3:17; Sirach 1411, 14[2].
In the New Testament, summons to this joy resound with much more insistence. In fact the New Testament period started with the message of “Rejoice!” of the angel’s greeting to Mary (Lk 1:28). Mary’s visit to Elizabeth brought joy to the child John in his mother’s womb (cf. Lk 1:41). In the Magnifcat, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:47).
Even to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus the Angel of God who appeared to them announced as follows: “… I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people (Lk. 2:10-11). Also when Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled” (Jn 3:29). And Jesus himself began his public ministry with the message of joy when he said:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19, Cf. Isaiah 61:1-2)[3].
Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Lk 10:21). His message brings us joy. Thus he said: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart. He promises his disciples: “your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20). He then goes on to say: “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The disciples “rejoiced” (Jn 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. It is a great testimony of the Church that Jesus was born for our joy. He lived for our joy. He suffered, died and was buried and he resurrected for our joy. Hence we sing:
The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world, while the choirs of heaven sing forever to your glory (Preface of Easter Season).
Christianity is a religion of joy for the fact that the Gospel itself, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, is the joy. An encounter with God is an encounter of joy. Joy is inherent in the Word of God – the Gospel is the Good News, What else is the meaning the word Gospel “euangelion” if not “Joy” – the “Message of Good tidings”.

3.      THE GOSPEL OF JOY IN THE APOSTOLIC/EARLY CHRISTIAN AGE

After the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, the apostles with the Pentecostal experience continued his mission and all he was doing in the world and the Lord working with them and confirming their word by the signs that accompanied it, (Mk. 16: 20). The image and the definition of Christ for them was “One who went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil” (Acts. 10:38). This made great influence in them that the first Christians “ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts. 2:46). Wherever the disciples went, “there was great joy” (Acts. 8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be “filled with joy” (Acts. 13:52). Also in Acts 5:40-41, we read:
…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
The newly baptized eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts. 8:39), Paul’s jailer “and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God” (16:34). Even the Gentiles were glad and glorified God for his word when the heard the Good News preached to them by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13: 48). The letter of St. Paul to the Philippians is full of the exhortation of joy, (Phil. 3:1), “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). It is really a fact that joy is a distinctive mark of believers in God.  

4.      THE GOSPEL OF JOY IN OUR TIME

In this our time, Pope Francis asked a pertinent question: “Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?”[4] Our time seems to have lost this sense of joy that saturates the Christian life. Thus Francis observed that:
There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty, (E.G. no. 6).
Pope Francis is not alone in this question. Many other Pontiffs and magisterium documents have expressed concern on the issue. The question is; what has gone wrong with our time?
Pope Paul VI tried to articulate some of the reasons that have deprived the men and women of our time from savouring the joy of the Gospel in his Apostolic exhortation: Evangelii Nuntiandi. According to the Holy Father, there are cases of dechristianization today[5], i.e., those baptized but they live lives extremely divorced from Christianity or they are ignorant of the fundamental principles of Christianity[6]. Other factors are desacralization: the deep loss of the sense of the sacred. The people of our time feel that religion is no longer useful. Science and technology for them are more useful. There are also cases of crisis of faith: secularism, pragmatism, consumerism/materialism, religious relativism, individualism and atheism. There is a dichotomy between faith and life[7]. The man of today does not know again where he belongs. Some large number of our contemporary youths attended Church last as teenagers. While these phenomena are found everywhere in the world of today, they seem to be very much common in Europe and America.
In Africa on the other hand, there are cases of proliferation of Churches/religions, fundamentalism, neo-paganism, and syncretism: where some people attend Masses in the morning and in the evening go to the Pentecostal Church or to a native doctor. There are issues of inculturation/indigenization, ecumenism/dialogue. A good number of families and schools no longer provide a context in which the faith may be learned and lived. Religion is becoming more and more privatized and marginalized. That is, it should no longer be discussed when political economic and educational concerns are the issues. The result is that there are so many graduates and undergraduates that feel the need to relate to God in a deeper and more personal way than they were taught in their childhood days[8]. A good number of them have begun to satisfy their spiritual yearnings even in non-Christian circles. There are many who have drifted away and regard as childish the catechesis they received as children. These and some other factors are responsible for the sadness of our people today.
The early Church was a community that gathered around the risen Lord to proclaim him in word and in deed as Lord and Saviour. They were a happy Church as we indicated above. That Church challenges our local Churches to conversion and renewal, so that our zeal for prayer, our hearing the word and our exercise of fraternal charity and breaking of bread, may be true witness and evoke admiration and joy of souls[9].

4.1.           Efforts on Re-Evangelization in the Church

a.      The Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Council and many other General Synods of Bishops are efforts of the Church for a new and more fruitful era of evangelization, which can liberate the whole man, from all that oppresses him – including his anxiety for the things of this world.
The Second Vatican Council (Dec. 4, 1963 – Dec. 7, 1965) set the stage for how we should understand the New Evangelization. The Council was basically convoked to respond to the situations enumerated above. In Gaudium et Spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (G.S.)], the Church strives in her evangelization to identify and show solidarity with the whole human family. The document began as follows:
The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of men of our time, especially of those who are  poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well (G.S. no. 1).
Informed by this spirit, the Church at all times tries to carry out her responsibility of reading the signs of the time and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. In language intelligible to every generation, she strives to answer the ever recurring questions which men ask about the meaning of the present life and the life to come and how one is to relate with the other[10]. Thus the Council proposed in response to dechristianization a liturgical reform which will entail active participation in liturgy. In response to desacralization she offered theological reformation through evangelization and catechesis. For the crisis of faith she offered ecumenical dialogue and ecclesial unity through communities that live and witness to the faith. One could say that the origin of New Evangelization in the Church began with the event of Vatican II Council. The effort of the Council was a most fruitful effort inspired by the Holy Spirit to renew the entire Church. However, as efforts are being made to live out some of the Council’s recommendations, many others till almost fifty years of the Council are yet to gain popular practice.

b.      Pope Pius VI

Almost ten years after the Second Vatican Council, during the pontificate of Pius VI, the same pertinent questions were raised up with new insistence as follows:
1.                            How can you bring the Good News to incarnate in the hearts of the men and women of our time?  
2.                            How far can the Good News transform the society in our century?
3.                            What method should be adopted to make the gospel effective in the work of salvation?[11]
To respond to these questions Pope Pius VI in 1975, wrote an Apostolic Exhortation called Evangelii Nuntiandi. Although Pius VI did not use the term evangelization in this context but he talked of an all-embracing approach to evangelization. In his call for a new period of evangelization he emphasized that:
While this first proclamation (evangelization qua tale) will be directed primarily towards those who have never heard the good news of Jesus, or to children, it will always be needed nevertheless on account of the extent of dechristianization today[12].
Pius VI fostered a holistic view evangelization which will embrace different apostolates of the Church with an aim to harness together her efforts for a more effective goal. On this common goal, Pius VI writes:
For the Church, evangelizing, means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new. The purpose of evangelization is precisely an interior change[13].
The exhortation of Pius VI gave a comprehensive outline for application of the Conciliar and Post Conciliar documents of the Second Vatican Council in the area of evangelization that the exhortation is regarded as the master-piece (Magna Charta) on evangelization[14].

c.      Pope St. John Paul II

Pope St. Paul II could be said to be actually the first to use the term (New) Evangelization. He used the concept “New Evangelisation in a homily during his first visit to his home land Poland in the first year of his pontificate. He experienced first-hand the tensions between the Church of Poland and the Communist government when he was in his country. Therefore his use of the term recognized both the realities the Church was finding herself in as well as how the Church could find an opportunity for evangelization in the tensions[15]. However, the Latin American bishops used the concepts “new evangelization” in 1968 in their Message to the People of Latin America” to address how the Gospel can reach both the elite and the poor in equal manner and with intense fervor”[16]. The political and social conditions of Latin America resulted in a discernment that the Church must respond to these new situations with a new evangelization, method that would bring the Gospel of Christ to all people, no matter their condition in life.  
However, “New Evangelization” became a neologism during the pontificate of John Paul II. The early years of his papacy saw an evangelization that would take the Church into all spheres of human activity in keeping with the promise made in his inaugural homily after being elected to the papacy. “To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of cultures, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man,” he alone knows it”. (Homily October 22, 1978).
Pope St. John Paul II made pastoral visits to more than 320 countries of the world during his pontificate. About ten of these visits were to the African continent. During his pastoral visit to the Island of Haiti, he called the Catholic world to evangelization that is new in its zeal, new in its expression, new in its method. John Paul II’s call for renewed zeal for the gospel as well as new language and method to tell the story of God’s love in Jesus reflects the mind of the Second Vatican council with a deepened sense of holiness and mission.  
He visited Nigeria in February 1982 and in 1998 (specifically for the beatification of Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi). His February 1982 pastoral visit to Nigeria marked a turning point in the life of the Church in our country. The Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed for Nigeria a “New Era of Evangelization”. In his inaugural message to the Nigerian Catholic Bishops, he said:
I have been sent by Christ and you have been sent by Christ. And together with the rest of the College of Bishops throughout the world we are sent to announce Christ, to proclaim Christ, to communicate Christ and his Gospel to the world. In this pastoral visit I expressed the hope that it would initiate a ‘new era of evangelization’. This is my earnest prayer; that zeal for evangelization will envelop the Church in Nigeria[17].
To Nigerian faithful gathered at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Lagos, the Holy Father said 
Are there not many people, in every nation on earth, who, deep in their hearts, long to know the Lord and be close to him"? We cannot be deaf to their petition. For it is to you and me, to every one of us that it is directed. We have come to know the Lord and have been invited to dwell in his house. Now in our turn we must share our faith with others, so that they too may come to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, that he is Lord, and that he is with us always. Through us the Lord wills to extend his salvation. I have made you a light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth" (Acts l3:47)[18].
            In 1989, St. John Paul II called for a decade of New Evangelization. This started from 1990 to 2000 (the Jubilee Year). The Holy Father invoked the entire Catholic population together with other Christians to this era with the aim:
To make Christ Jesus better known, loved and served, so that by the year 2000 many more of the world population may be won over to Christ. He came and gave his life to save all of them[19].
            Thus in December 1990, St. John Paul II published an Encyclical letter; “Redemptoris Missio”, (On the permanent validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate). In this document, the Holy Father gave a more developed understanding of New Evangelization. Here the term “New Evangelization” refers to the missionary activity needed in countries in which people already have heard the gospel. The Pope insisted that new zeal, new expression, new methods are needed at this period of history in order to overcome the complacent attitude of many priests and religious in the face of so wide spread secularization in the world. New ways must be found to enable the resurrected Christ penetrate and transform the lives of individuals, the family, work situations, politics and human relationships into a new “civilization of love”[20]. This is only possible when human hearts learn respect for all people, respect for life and for human rights. It will happen when there is freedom from oppression, bitterness, fear, mistrust, hatred, turmoil, violence, misery, guilt. Such civilization will only come when all accept Jesus the Lord, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14: 6), by listening to him who came that we might have life to the full (Jn. 10:10).
            For Pope St. John Paul II, therefore, the term “New Evangelization is a movement of the Holy Spirit that shaped the decade of 1990s and the new millennium 2000 and beyond. He was courageous, fearless and announced the word to the utmost ends of the earth even in the midst of hostility. Like the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, he went about doing good, encouraging men and women of our time to open up to Jesus, reaffirming the lukewarm and strengthening the weak and reassuring the believers vigorously in his thrilling and blooming words: “Do not be afraid”. His pontificate, the longest so far in our time was a pace setter. He indefatigably testified the joy of the Gospel in words and deeds, with his strength, with his persecutions, with his sickness and old age. In fact, his is the spirit enveloping the world today giving it a new hope and bringing a new springtime. No wonder under ten years he was canonized a Saint of the Church.

d.      Pope Benedict XVI


Benedict XVI convoked the Synod of Bishops on "New Evangelization for the Transmission of Faith", which took place from 7 to 28 October 2012. The Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel) of Pope Francis was written following the outcome of the Synod. In the opening message of the Synod, Pope Benedict XVI writes:
I open the way for a reflection to begin on a subject I had pondered over for a long time: the need to offer a specific response to a moment of crisis in Christian life which is occurring in many countries[21].
The New Evangelization involves every pastoral situation people could encounter. Benedict XVI asked the Church to consider the phenomena of Christian cultures losing their identity to the sweeping waves of secular humanism. Thus his creating the Pontifical Office for Promoting the New Evangelization and calling for a Synod of Bishops in October 2012 are immediate responses to these situations. Catholics in Christian cultures such as those in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East are finding themselves in new situations that are quickly eroding the importance of faith. Addressing the Synod participants, the Holy Father said:
It is precisely these changes which have created unexpected conditions for believers and require special attention in proclaiming the Gospel, for giving account of our faith in situations which are different from the past (Benedict XVI, Address: Promoting the New Evangelization).
The greatest issue at hand is the disconnection between what the believers know about this faith and how to live this faith. This threatens the credibility of the Church’s conviction on moral issues related to human sexuality, medical ethics and marriage. An aspect of the New Evangelization is the responsibility of promoting lifelong catechesis from the individual to the vocation of parents, from the pastors and bishops to parish and diocesan structures. The more Catholics know their faith and their relationship with Jesus Christ, the more believers are able to bring their witness and words into culture, the more culture itself becomes shaped. 

5.      THE PONTIFICATE OF POPE FRANCIS

The pontificate of Pope Francis could be described as that springtide calling to humanity to herald once again and in fact rediscover the joy, gladness, happiness of the Gospel. The Holy Father in the very first page of his Evangelii Gaudium confirmed this:
In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come[22].
In the style of Martin Luther King Jr., Pope Francis has a dream of an ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred. This is the main content of the Evangelii Gaudium. It is a vision statement about the kind of community he wants Catholicism to be: more missionary, more merciful, and with the courage to change. Francis revealed his dream in these words:
I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today's world, rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself[23].
Thus according to Archbishop Fisichella: 
We could say that Evangelii Gaudium is written around the theme of Christian joy in order that the Church may rediscover the original source of evangelization in the contemporary world. Pope Francis offers this document to the Church as a map and guide to her pastoral mission in the near future. It is an invitation to recover a prophetic and positive vision of reality without ignoring the current challenges. Pope Francis instills courage and urges us to look ahead despite the present crisis, making the cross and the resurrection of Christ once again our "victory banner"[24].

5.1.           THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH TO EVANGLIZE

Jesus, having seen from his pastoral tour in the towns and villages that the harvest is indeed rich, and knowing too well that he will return to the father, decided to choose collaborators, those who will carry on his mission on earth. He dedicated a major part of his time preparing them and sending them on missionary experiences. His wish was that they share in his ministry of evangelization. However, this ministry is not only for the twelve. It is a universal one for all believers as it is evident from the mission of the seventy-two disciples (Lk. 10:1ff).
And so from the first Christian community of Jerusalem until today, the Church having received the charge from the Lord sees Evangelization as primarily belonging to her mission in terms of both her founding purpose and her history. The Second Vatican Council clearly stated that the Church is born of the evangelizing action of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The Church is sent by Jesus to evangelize and she remains in the world to prolong and continue the mission of her Lord and founder Jesus Christ. Thus St. Paul admonishes that:
The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14); “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).
Having been evangelized and sent, the Church is the depository of the Good News to be proclaimed, she herself sends her evangelizers (Lumen Gentium, no. 8, Ad Gentes, no. 5, Evangelium Nuntiandi, nos. 14 &15).  Thus evangelization is of the Church. It is the Church that gives people mandate which she herself received to evangelize. We evangelize in the Church and into the Church. Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Mt. 28:19-20).
            In these verses we see how the risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth.
            The word evangelization, whose verb to evangelize means to be an enthusiastic advocate of a course, is a technical term used in the Church for conversion. According Pope Francis, evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him[25]. The mission of the Church is to bring the Gospel to people wherever people are found.

5.1.1.     PASTORAL DIMENSION OF EVANGELIZATION OF THE CHURCH   

Matthew described the evangelization actions of Jesus as; teaching, preaching and caring (healing). These formed the two aspects of the evangelizing mission of Jesus; in words and actions. It is evident from the Gospels that proclamation is essentially followed by actions, (cf. Mt. 4)[26]. Jesus never separated his practical (healing, feeding, companionship (staying with etc.) activities from the proclamation of the kingdom of God. They were complimentary aspects of the evangelizing mission of Christ. It could be said that for Jesus, there is no proclamation without action just as there is no action without proclamation.
Jesus method is as it were the general parameter of the Church’s pastoral action in the world. The praxis of Jesus is the criterion of the Church’s praxis. This means that the maintenance of the unity between the proclamation of the word and charitable works is both a task and a mandate of the Church[27]. The Church has as its goal to bring to the men and women of our time that salvation given by God the Father through Christ and in the Spirit, a salvation which consists in the liberation from sin and death and in the participation in the Trinitarian life. The Church is expressed as a community of believers which manifests and realizes this Trinitarian communion in her members in the world through her charisms and ministries, the word of God and the sacraments. Hence the pastoral/evangelization actions of the Church could be summarized as the Kerygma i.e. proclamation of the word, (Catechesi Tradendae nos. 14 &15)), the celebration of the liturgy/sacraments (E.N. no. 14), Diakonia (service)[28] and Koinonia (fraternal solidarity)[29]. Through these actions, the church renders Christ present to the world and especially to the poor, weak and suffering humanity. Thus the Christ’s promise of renewed life day after day becomes more powerful than death[30].
Pastoral care of the Church is a person-centred, holistic approach to care that complements the care offered by other helping disciplines while paying particular attention to spiritual care. The focal point of this ‘religious ministry is to heal, to sustain, to guide and to reconcile’[31], to nurture, liberate and empower people in whatever situation they find themselves. It is intended to provide believers with support not only to confront particular situations, but also to explore the possibilities for personal and spiritual growth present within them so that they can respond to God’s love ever more fully in their lives[32]. As a holistic perspective it involves physical, psychological, social and spiritual care given especially during a crisis moment of need, sickness or suffering. ‘It is the out pouring of affection and support that allows one to experience the Church as a healing community, a community of solidarity and a sign of hope in a very intimate manner. It is the strengthening of hope and confidence that in Christ, life can be lived even in difficulties. It is the comfort the Church gives to whoever is in any need with the same consolation; she has received from the Lord’ (2Cor. 1:4)[33]. Pastoral care means ‘providing in whatever form, the care that will prevent the distress, pain or tragedy of affliction from destroying a person’s faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour. Positively stated, pastoral care intends that even suffering and the tragedies of live may be endured and used to strengthen faith in the abiding care of God[34]. In fact pastoral care fulfils its greatest potential when it assists another in arriving at this conviction. And this is the highest priority of the Church’s pastoral care economy[35].
Let us here then examine how the Church follows the Jesus pastoral method in her evangelization in our times.

a.      The Proclamation of the Word of God

The Church from her history conceives herself as the continuity and the prolongation of the evangelising mission of Jesus Christ. Her task here is to announce the fullness of the grace of God in Christ, which fills the entire experience of humanity.  In a more peculiar way the Church has to:
Offer and communicate the salvation of Jesus Christ as a healing force still able to be experienced in the present time within the sufferings and weaknesses of the present human condition, as a Gospel and hope of eternal life[36]
The full Gospel of Jesus which the Church announces to humanity in its entirety is like a force that guarantees a profound wellbeing be it individual or social wellbeing. The healing here is not comparable to an intervention of a medical professional. It is an integral healing of the human being – a process of conversion, a rediscovering of life, a positive growth of a person and a victory over sin and the forces of evil, in order to experience the salvation which comes from God. Thus Pope Francis testified that:
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew[37].
No one can fathom the significant and deep content of joy, healing and wellbeing of humanity, an experience of a liberation which emanates from the proclamation of the total salvation of God.
To this effect, the Church has to reinforce the liveliness of the saving Gospel both in her missionary announcements, catechesis, liturgy, and charitable services, in order to offer the man of today the joy of the Christian salvation which helps him to live in a healthy and human manner, the situations of life: sickness and health, pains and death, with the hope and aspiration that the human life at any given time and situation is still significant, meaningful and joyful. In this way:
The memory of the faithful, like that of Mary, should overflow with the wondrous things done by God. Their hearts, growing in hope from the joyful and practical exercise of the love which they have received, will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand[38].
The question is; how will the content of this Proclamation be packaged in order to speak to the hearts of men? According to Pope Francis, the preacher needs to keep his ear to the people and to discover what it is that the faithful need to hear. A preacher has to contemplate the word, but he also has to contemplate his people. In this way he learns “of the aspirations, of riches and limitations, of ways of praying, of loving, of looking at life and the world, which distinguish this or that human gathering,” while paying attention “to actual people, to using their language, their signs and symbols, to answering the questions they ask”. He needs to contextualize (link) the message of a biblical text to a human situation, to an experience which cries out for the light of God’s word. This is profoundly religious and pastoral. Fundamentally it is a “spiritual sensitivity for reading God’s message in events”, and this is much more than simply finding something interesting to say. In the Word of God we are looking for “what the Lord has to say in a particular circumstance”[39].
The Holy Father sees preparation for preaching as an exercise in evangelical discernment, wherein we strive to recognize – in the light of the Spirit – “a call which God causes to resound in the historical situation itself. In this situation, and also through it, God calls the believer”[40]. In this effort we may need to think of some ordinary human experience such as a joyful reunion, a moment of disappointment, the fear of being alone, compassion at the sufferings of others, uncertainty about the future, concern for a loved one, and so forth. But we need to develop a broad and profound sensitivity to what really affects other people’s lives.
The Holy Father warns that homily is not just current affairs, the latest news according to people’s interest. Homily should be Words which set hearts on fire for the communication which takes place in the homily possesses a quasi-sacramental character: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). For that the Pope stressed that:
The homily has special importance due to its Eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion. The homily takes up once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people[41].
It is not unusual however, to start with some fact or story so that God’s word can forcefully resound in its call to conversion, worship, commitment to fraternity and service, and so forth. However, the preacher should desist from encouraging his listeners to make due with his commentaries on current affairs, while not letting themselves be challenged by the word of God[42].
The manner of the presentation of our preaching is also very important. Many preachers complain when people do not listen to or appreciate them, but perhaps they have never taken the trouble to find the proper way of presenting their message. Let us remember that “the obvious importance of the content of evangelization must not overshadow the importance of its ways and means”. Concern for the way we preach is likewise a profoundly spiritual concern. This entail responding to the love of God by putting all our talents and creativity at the service of the mission which he has given us; at the same time, it shows a fine, active love of neighbour by refusing to offer others a product of poor quality. In fact the Bible itself tells of how to prepare a homily so as to best reach people: “Speak concisely, say much in few words” (Sir 32:8). The use of some practical resources can enrich our preaching and make it more attractive, such as cultural imagery in order to help people better to appreciate and accept the message we wish to communicate. An attractive image makes the message seem familiar, close to home, practical and related to everyday life. A successful image can make people savour the message, awaken a desire and move the will towards the Gospel[43]. The hallmark of good preaching is simplicity, clarity, positivity, direct, understandable, and well-adapted. A preaching like mother’s conversation is “heart-to-heart” Words which set hearts on fire[44].

b.      Liturgy: - The Celebration of the Sacraments:

When the fullness of time had come God sent his Son, the Word made flesh, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart, to be a bodily and spiritual medicine: the Mediator between God and man. Therefore, in Christ the perfect achievement of our reconciliation came forth and the fullness of divine worship was given to us”. “He achieved his task principally by the paschal mystery of his blessed passion, resurrection from the dead, and glorious ascension, whereby “dying he destroyed our death, and rising, restored our life. For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth “the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church[45]  
From this citation we understand the nature and the importance of the sacraments and their sacred celebrations (Liturgy) in the life of the Church and its desirability in the life of all Christ’s faithful. The pastoral actions lie first and foremost in the celebration of the sacraments of God’s Love[46], which must meet people at the most vulnerable and receptive moments of their lives. The liturgical celebrations are the actions of Christ himself, (Priest), and the sacraments are the presentation of man’s sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. Because the sacraments and their celebration is the action of Christ (Priest) and his Body (the Church), it is a sacred action surpassing all other actions of the Church in its efficacy, title and degree[47].   
The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ and finally to worship God. Their celebrations confer grace and effectively dispose the faithful to receive this grace to their own profit, help them worship God duly, and to practise charity.[48].  
The sacraments assume a sensitive significance and a deeper reflection, when considered in relation to the afflicted and the suffering man. Thus Jesus said “I came that you may have life and have it in abundance” (Jn. 10: 10).
The incarnation of the Son of God and its salvific events has a character of total salvation for man. The sacraments of the Church manifest in themselves, the same character of total salvation of Christ. On this, Vatican II Council writes,
“For all well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ”[49].                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
In the celebration of the sacraments the church invokes the presence of God, retells the sacred stories, enacts the creed, prays for the living, intercedes for the sick and dying, delivers God’s mercy to them, and stands in wonder and reverential silence before the mysteries of birth, suffering and death, celebration of the sacredness of life, and recalls the promise of a life beyond the present.[50] All the seven sacraments are privileged means through which flow the presence and gift of God through Christ. The sacraments are all connected with the facets of human existence; life, growth and communion, health, sickness and death, love and service. In the sacraments, God fills body and soul of the recipient with his prevailing power of the Holy Spirit in union with Christ, the healer of body and soul. In relation to sacraments, Pope Francis stresses that the Church as the house of the Father, should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. Thus he admonishes that:
Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak[51].
In a like manner, the sacrament of reconciliation is not simply a sacrament of accusation, neither is it an easy means to condemn. Here the Holy Father also cautioned that:
I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best. A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings[52].
The Holy Father admitted that the above is pastoral issue that has to be confronted with boldness and at the same time with prudence, so that we do not act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators which we are. We need to be a more receptive community so that our Churches will remain houses of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.

c.      Diakonia (Services) and Koinonia (Communal Concern)

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37)[53].
The order of Service (Diakonia) in the apostolic age owes its origin from the above injunction of Jesus. The apostles instituted the order of deacons in order to distribute food to the widows. The Church in her turn is to live out this fundamental mission with utmost solidarity to the entire human race and in particular to those who suffer. According to Pope Paul VI, certainly, the Church is wholly dedicated to the relief of the ills of mankind; sin primarily, also pain, misery, and death. It is compassion towards every human weakness and for precisely this reason there is between the Church and the one who suffers a profound understanding. Charity he stressed, gives urgency to the supreme precept of the Gospel to love whoever is weaker, lonelier, needier, and afflicted with greater suffering[54]. Furthermore, Pope St. John Paul II attested to this truth, when he said that:
The Church, which has always seen in the solicitude of the Redeemer towards the sick (Mt. 9: 35) the guiding example for her own conduct, has always looked with special interest to the man tested by pain[55].
In fact, the history of the Church is a record of services to the needy, the poor, the sick, the suffering etc. Many Christians, the clergy, the religious and laity have dedicated their lives to the service of the sick and the less privileged. We recall the centuries-old caring activity of the Church and the decisive contribution made to the progress and development of healthcare by such saints and founders of religious hospital institutes as St John of God, St Camillus de Lellis, St Vincent de Paul, St Catherine of Genova, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Florence Nightingale etc. we can name our own saints and heroes of fraternal services. Right from the time the apostles cured a paralytic at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem (Acts 3: -10), Christians have cared for the sick as part of hospitalitas[56]
From the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord communicated the spirit that moved his compassion towards the sick and the suffering. He replied to the problem of human pain by experiencing the circumstances of the suffering and the sick. For St. John Paul II, this parable belongs to the Gospel of suffering. It is the tradition which care implies, of giving and benevolence, without asking for reciprocity. This entails the suffering of the other, recognised and accepted by the passer-by as his own responsibility, and as enough to establish personal commitment. Over and beyond charitable help to the sick in the technical and normal daily activities of cooking, bathing, lifting the sick from the bed and also washing, treating and bandaging his wounds, the parable narrative is a commitment that calls for the interruption of one’s journey, a commitment that upsets one’s plans and course of life for a man who is lying wounded and sick at the road side. The figure of the Good Samaritan is one who gives his time and money for a stranger and ready to take up further responsibility in the longer term. The figure of the Good Samaritan is an example for service and communion in the Church. It suggests too, that one who gives help must devote time and energy to continually provide for the person until the task is accomplished[57]. Such works of love directed to one’s neighbour are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit: who is manifested in the faith which works through love”. St. Thomas Aquinas thus explains that, as far as external works are concerned, mercy is the greatest of all the virtues: since all the others revolve around it and, more than this, it makes up for their deficiencies (E.G., 37) Water extinguishes a blazing fire: so almsgiving atones for sin (Sir. 3:30).
The basis of solidarity can never be limited to the members of a group by birth or by tradition. Solidarity is a universal human responsibility. If the Church today appears still highly credible in many countries of the world, even where it is a minority, it is because of her works of charity and solidarity (Matt. 25:35-46; E.G., no. 65). Thus Pope Paul VI exhorts that solicitude to the suffering is a primary important mission of the Church involving all her members, missionaries, priests, members of religious orders and the laity[58]. In this way, the Church with her members, even the sick, each according to his calling and state of life, will be responding to the mission of Christ who came that ‘the world may have life and have it in abundance’ (Jn. 10:10).

5.1.2.     SOCIO-POLITICAL DIMENSION OF EVANGELIZATION OF THE CHURCH:

The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centred on charity[59].
The social dimension of the Church’s mission is very important in this our time when the joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power[60]
The Church has to continue but go beyond the celebration of sacraments and charitable services in her evangelizing mission in order to embrace and exercise socio-political role in the world so as to offer to humanity an integral salvation. Evangelization has to focus itself on the promotion and the defence of the fundamental human rights of persons in order to ensure quality life and health care, justice and equity in the world. The Church in her evangelization has to work tirelessly for the good of the entire human society in order avoid what St. John Paul II called the “structure of sin”, a “war of the powerful against the weak” and the “conspiracy against life”. These come about when the poor, the sick, the handicap, the terminally or the incurably ill and the dying etc., who should require greater acceptance, love and care are considered instead useless, or held to be intolerable burden and are rejected in one way or the other, or they are looked upon as enemies to be resisted or eliminated[61].

a.      Justice, Social Development and Peace

The fight for justice and peace is imbedded in the history of God’s intervention for the liberation of his people. It is also contained in the mission statement of Jesus Christ. Justice is part of the Jesus’ good news to the poor, release to the captives and setting at liberty those who are oppressed, (Luke 4:18-19). Thus right from her birth, the Church has always been concerned with the issues of human rights, justice and peace in her promotion of human dignity and respect. Many documents of the Church and encyclicals of the Holy Fathers have addressed this issue. Some of them are: Rerum Novarum (1891) by Pope Leo XIII, Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963) by Pope St. John XXIII, Vatican II Council (1963-1965), Populorum Progressio the Motu Proprio for the creation of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace “IUSTITIA ET PAX” (January 6th, 1967) by Pope Paul VI, Laborem Excercens (On the Dignity of Human Work 1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On the Social Concern 1987), Centesimus Annus (The hundredth Year: “New Things” One Hundred Years Later 1991), Ecclesia in Africa  (On the Church in Africa and its Evangelizing Mission Towards the Year 2000, 1995) of Pope St. John Paul II, Africae Munus (On The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace 2011) of Benedict XVI, to mention but a few. All these documents devoted attention to human rights and justice. Thus the Church teaches that:
Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from oppressive situation[62].
In the human society today socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. There is exclusion and inequality in society. Evil is crystallized in unjust social structures. When this is embedded in the structures of a society, there cannot be a basis of hope for a better future. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. Furthermore, there is the wide gap between the rich and the poor. Widespread and deeply rooted corruption is found in our societies and beyond, in governments, businesses and institutions. Unless these situations are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. Any efforts to ensure greater security will be in vain.
Since the Catholic Church is against inequality, the Holy Father wonders why in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times. This attitude as an imbalance, results that precisely those virtues which ought to be most present in preaching and catechesis are overlooked[63]
Here, however, the Holy Father expects local Churches to articulate a befitting response peculiar to their own situation. In his words, Pope Francis said:
Here I can repeat the insightful observation of Pope Paul VI: “In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity. This is not our ambition, nor is it our mission. It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country (E.G. no. 184)
The above consideration was the reason that necessitated the African Synods of Bishops held in Rome in 1994, 2011 respectively. These Synods raised challenging questions on “What must the Church in Africa become for her message to be authentic and credible? In fact the second Synod of 2011 on the Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace is a direct response on the socio-political dimension of evangelization of the Church in Africa.
Back home in Nigeria, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigerian (CBCN) noted that the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized in our country. They recognized that:
The problem of justice in Nigeria may well become one of the gravest and most urgent problems of our immediate future. This is not something new on the face of the earth. But what distinguished the Nigeria of 1970s as against earlier is a great awareness of injustice and this especially on the part of young adults. They are prepared to rise up against any form of oppression or discrimination, demanding new patterns to effect man’s liberation[64].
          Consequently, the bishops of Nigeria saw the social transformation of the Nigerian society as a serious and urgent mission of the Church through the promotion of justice and peace. This must be the task of every person; both Christians and non-Christians since the question of justice and peace concern every man and woman as a member of God’s people. Thus, in response to the appeal by the Vatican II Council, the Nigerian bishops in accordance with the 1994 and 2011 African Synods have directed that the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) be established from the national, provincial, diocesan to parish-grass root levels in all the Catholic dioceses in Nigeria[65].
          Knowing that without justice there can be no true peace and where justice and peace lack, there can be no authentic human development, a review of the efforts of this Commission’s commitment would be necessary given the relevance the Holy Father Pope Francis has given to this aspect of the Church’s evangelization. Much more support is needed in this area if the Commission must be relevant to its call.
            The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics”, the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. All Christians, their pastors included are called to show concern for the building of a better world[66].

b.      Preferential Option for the Poor

The Holy Father on the issue of option for the poor started in this way:
In what follows I intend to concentrate on two great issues which strike me as fundamental at this time in history. I will treat them more fully because I believe that they will shape the future of humanity. These issues are first, the inclusion of the poor in society….[67]
From the above citation, Pope Francis over and above the love for every human person insists that a convinced option for the weakest and poorest must motivate the action of the Church and all its members. For him, this applies not only to what individuals do in their homes or the Church does in its institutions, but requires the Church and its members to assert their voice in public and advocate for laws that respect human life and give justice to the poor. This is in fact what he called the inclusion of the poor in society. The basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members is our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast[68].
In this context, such lobbying and advocacy must focus on both the Church and government budgets/contracts monitoring and analysis, to enhance probity and transparency in their disbursement and awarding processes and to see that it reflects pro-poor policy. The Churches in Africa are also aware that, insofar as their own internal affairs are concerned, justice is not always respected with regard to those men and women who are at their service. It is therefore recommended that the Church and her members should strive to see how much their own as well as the government budgets and policies are pro-people and especially pro-poor.
If the Church is to give witness to justice, she recognizes that whoever dares to speak to others about justice should also strive to be just in their eyes. It is necessary therefore to examine with care the procedures, the possessions and the life style of the Church[69].
Government capital projects like roads, water, infrastructures must be rightly and directly channeled as these affect the poor and the common persons who need them most.
Here also we mention the place of women in the society and in the Church. Gender as a recognized phenomenon today makes it almost impossible for one to address any issue whether in politics, economy, philosophy, religion, literature, name it, without a specific reference to gender. Women, the voiceless population (of Africa) are still victims of the social stigma of gender imbalance. This makes people look on women as inferior to men – and it affects women as well as men. The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. We note in particular, the special concern women show to bishops, priests, religious and others in our Church in this part of the world, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood. Besides the priesthood, many women also share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. Many women have stood out in their great works in the Church – St. Catherine of Siena for one, is a doctor of the Church. Still broader opportunities could be created for women for a more incisive and inclusive female presence in the Church. Here we can think of the office of catechists, parish secretaries, chair persons pastoral councils etc. The emphasis here is not necessarily only to bridge the gap between men and women, but rather for the demands that the legitimate rights of women must be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity. The Church cannot lightly evade such profound and challenging questions.
The same holds for the civil society as well, since “the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society. Therefore, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace” and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures[70]. The main issue will be that of fairness to women, by carrying them along with men without discrimination. This would mean that gender equity, gender friendliness and gender sensitivity would be considered in all programme mainstreams like agriculture, education, politics, health etc., of both the Church and the society.
Also, the Pope equally reinforces the Church’s defence of human life in its beginning and of the dignity of every human person[71]. Jesus, the evangelizer par excellence and the Gospel in person, identifies especially with the little ones (cf. Matt. 25:40). This reminds us Christians that we are called to care for the vulnerable of the earth[72].

5.2. A CALL TO A SPIRIT-FILLED EVANGELIZATION 

a.      The Holy Spirit is the Principal Agent of Evangelization

The aim of the Holy Father Pope Francis in the Gospel of life is a call to a "spirit of the New Evangelization". This is developed under the primacy of the action of the Holy Spirit which always and anew infuses the missionary impulse in the Church beginning with the life of prayer whose centre is contemplation[73]. As the principal agent of evangelization, all other (agents) evangelizers, bishops, priests and lay faithful can only engage in a Spirit-filled evangelization, a renewed missionary impulse through the Spirit. Thus the Holy Father calls for attentiveness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who helps us together to read the signs of the times. In him is the right words that stir enthusiasm, full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction. No evangelizer can do without the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns in our hearts. Thus a spirit-filled evangelization is one guided by the Holy Spirit, for he is the soul of the Church called to proclaim the Gospel. The evangelizer must encounter God in deep breath of prayer, otherwise fervour dies away and he becomes weary. Here there is no room for false spirituality. It was with the power of pray that the early Christians and our many brothers and sisters throughout history were filled with joy, unflagging courage and zeal in proclaiming the Gospel amidst seemingly unbeatable difficulties of their times. The Holy Father is aware that every age in history is marked by the presence of human weakness, self-absorption, complacency and selfishness, to say nothing of the concupiscence which preys upon us all. These things are ever present under one guise or another; they are due to our human limits rather than particular situations. Things are not harder today; they are simply different. Let us learn also from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day[74]. Keeping our missionary fervour alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to grow weak in the missionary endeavour.

b.      Aggiornamento of the Missionary Spirit 

Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the workings of the Holy Spirit. They are evangelizers who pray and work. The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. But this conviction has to be sustained by our own constantly renewed experience of savouring Christ’s friendship and his message. It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convinced from personal experience of Jesus. The missionary’s enthusiasm for evangelization is based on this conviction. We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love[75].
Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people with deep love and concern: “Jesus, looking upon the rich young man, loved him” (Mk 10:21). We see how accessible he is, as he draws near the blind man (cf. Mk 10:46-52) and eats and drinks with sinners (cf. Mk 2:16) without worrying about being thought a glutton and a drunkard himself (cf. Mt 11:19). We see his sensitivity in allowing a sinful woman to anoint his feet (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Moved by his example, we are called to share the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. This must be with a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives. To be evangelizers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people’s lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy.
The mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of life or a badge one can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something one cannot uproot from his being without destroying his very self. A good shepherd cannot but have the “smell of sheep on him”.
One important character of a spirit-filled evangelizer is detachment. This consists in cultivating the virtue of evangelical poverty, which helps us to overcome the greed of the rich and misery of the poor. It is the virtue of superiority over wants, only few things are necessary, the rest are superfluous. Ostentatious parade of wealth, shameless materialism, and addictive dependence on money does not support altruistic living which is a cardinal charisma of spirit-filled evangelization. This type of living challenges God and tantalizes our people to inordinate wants.
We are a mission on this earth; that is the reason why we are here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing. All around us we begin to see nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. This is the missionary spirit – living for others. Once we separate our call from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs. We stop being a people. Here underscores the collective Spirit of the mission.

c.      Imitation of the Saints and the Early Christians

At the beginning of this work we noted the spirit that filled the early Christians. Pope Francis proposes that we pause to rediscover some of the reasons which can help us to imitate their spirit of mission today. We recall the age long saying of Tertullian, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Gospel”. The power of the early Christian martyrs was their conviction to die for a noble course: the love of God and humanity. Here we must not fell to remember the Apostle Paul as an example of a spirit-filled evangelizer. In his exhortation to Timothy, he writes: “Certa bonum certamen Fidei [Fight the good battle of faith (1Tim. 6:12)]. “Certa bonum” entails using all available liveliness to render very resourceful the proclamation of the Gospel. St. Paul weak as he was had the Gospel as his only weapon.
According to St. Theresa of Avila, ‘the first thing God does to his saints is to infuse them with courage and take away from them the fear of suffering’. Courage without fear of suffering is what we need to really carry out our mission. This is what God did to St Paul. To be a spirit-filled evangelizer is to be consumed for the souls of the flock. And this means that our war of faith is a war of martyrdom. The Church can only convince people in the measure in which those who proclaim the Gospel in her name are disposed to let themselves be wounded.
Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness[76].
This is why Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, we are still distressed by the troubles of our age and far from naive optimism. Where there is lack of the disposition to suffer there lacks the decisive argument for the Truth on which the Church herself depends. The Church’s war would be always and solely the war of those who accept to sacrifice themselves: the battle of martyrs. For Benedict XVI, ‘whoever dedicates to the Truth may not be necessarily killed, but will be very close to martyrdom: will become a suffering person. This is because suffering and truth go together. It is not the sword of conquest that saved the world, but only the sword of suffering. This is the Jesus’ style. Only following Christ brings new brotherhood, a change of mind and indeed, a change of nations’[77].
The priests can be the only very powerful and sustaining motivators when working under extremely difficult conditions: with the afflicted, the poor, the sick and the dying etc. Today, when it seems that every thing that matters is money, should emerge with all its force the value of gratuitous giving. The priest should do all for Christ in this third millennium, when the entire world is challenged to defeat egoism with solidarity, expressed in the attitude of the “Good Samaritan” capable of helping in suffering. It is all about a question of the heart that knows how to open up itself to the necessities of others, recognizing in them the highest human dignity which reflects the greatness of God himself – of whose image humankind is created. The priests are to put their own lives at the service of others in order to set up a “culture of love”. Moved by their faith belief, or because they believe in a world more polite, they are to give a helping hand to whoever is living in a miserable situation. Beginning from the creative parish organizations or pushed by charitable actions, the priests should struggle against the dangerous consequences of discriminations, against social exclusion as result of various forms of poverty.    
Testimonies of charity should be for priests as well as for all believers a stimulus to live the present time in a prophetic manner, thereby inspiring many Christians to always find new forms of solidarity in order to give back hope to the poor, the sick, the needy and the suffering. The priest obtains his vitality from his own religious faith and system of values by so doing he strives as not to become more hurtful than healing, a scandal, rather than a witness of Christ’s presence in a suffering world. Without such real faith commitment, a humanistic ideal is prone to be a depersonalized machine which hurts as much as it heals[78].

6.      OBSTACLES TO MISSIONARY SPIRIT

In our time, the missionary spirit seems to have grown dismal and repellent. Many who embrace the mission of evangelization today seem to do so as the last resort. The enthusiastic spirit seems to have gone down so low. A number of factors could be responsible for this. Here we identify a few. There is today a heightened sense of individualism, crisis of identity and a cooling of commitment. And these are three evils which fuel one another and they produce a vicious circle. Given the above situation, one ends up being unhappy with who he is and what he does. Lack of identity with one’s mission weakens the commitment. The end point is the stifling of the joy of mission whereby the work of evangelization thus becomes forced that barely little energy and very limited time is devoted to it. This inevitably leads to pastoral and even doctrinal relativism. Practically relativism consists in acting as if neither God nor other people exist. This can happen to anybody, even spiritual giants. People in this state frequently fall into lifestyles which lead to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. The outcome here is selfishness and spiritual sloth in which case, one resists giving himself over completely to mission and thus ends up in a state of paralysis and acedia. The only solution here would be a spirituality which can offer healing and liberation, and fill the person with life and peace, while at the same time summoning him to fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness,. Otherwise the person will end up in solutions which neither make life truly human nor give glory to God. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.
Another issue is that of unpreparedness: many people quickly become exhausted and burnout and sometimes fall sick. The problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, and a spirituality which would permeate the mission and make it pleasurable. “Bad pastoral work is bad application of good theology”.
The next obstacle to the missionary spirit is “Spiritual worldliness”. This can even hide behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church. It consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. In some areas we notice an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel has a real impact on God’s faithful and the concrete needs of the present time. Excesses on the part of the clergy should also be checked. Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the people of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service. We have to recognize that God blesses the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God.
The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from people by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22). The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervour. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow. With the eyes of faith, we can see the light which the Holy Spirit always radiates in the midst of darkness, never forgetting that “where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).

7.      CONCLUSION

The language of this Apostolic Exhortation is clear, immediate, free from rhetoric and insinuations. Pope Francis goes to the heart of the problems which touch the lives of men and women of today and which demand of the Church more than a simple presence. The Church is asked to actively program a renewed pastoral practice which reflects her engagement in the New Evangelization. The Gospel must reach everyone, without exception. Pope Francis leaves us in no doubt as to his position: "Not so much friends and rich neighbours, but above all the poor, the sick, those who are often ignored and forgotten. As in other crucial moments of her history, it is with a sense of urgency that the Church prepares to engage in the New Evangelization in a spirit of adoration so as to behold once again, with a "contemplative gaze", the signs of the presence of God. The signs of the times are not only encouraging, but serve as a criterion for effective witness. We are reminded first of all, of the central mystery of our faith: ‘Let us not run away from the resurrection of Jesus, let us not surrender, come what may’. He shows us a Church which is the companion of those who are our contemporaries in the seeking after God and in the desire to see him. Thus he sees a need for the church to move “from a bureaucratic, static and administrative vision of pastoral ministry to a perspective which is not only missionary but is in a permanent state of evangelization.
It is pertinent here to underscore the Holy Father’s call to pastoral conversion. He insists that pastoral ministry in a missionary key must seek to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. He invites everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. Hence Pope Francis admonishes:
I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment[79].
Here we recall some of the national, provincial and diocesan laws we have in our Church today. The great question is; how far did they reflect this directive of the Holy Father? The Church is called to see as one of her fundamental objectives, the thoroughgoing conversion of individuals, communities and cultures – a spiritual heart transplantation to match the on-going new era of evangelization. In this way, evangelizing mission of the Church will be a Gospel of Joy, of life and hope and not the contrary. Thus in his words, Pope Francis said:
Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis). Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus[80].
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization. We rely on the intercession of the Virgin Mary, “Star of the New Evangelization”. She is the icon of salvation and of every authentic preaching and transmission of the Gospel which the Church is called to undertake in the coming decades with a strong enthusiasm and an unchanging love for the Lord Jesus. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love. We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world. So that confident in the Risen Christ and with a power that fills us with unshakeable hope his words: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5), will be accomplished in our lives and our world.

MASTER’S BIOETHICS, MASTER’S IN PASTORAL THEOLOGY OF HEALTH CARE, BACHELORS IN PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY AND BIOETHICS, LECTURER OF PHILOSOPHICAL ETHICS, SPECIAL MORALS & PASTORAL THEOLOGY @ SEAT OF WISDOM SEMINARY OWERRI NIGERIA AND THE DIRECTOR AHIARA DIOCESAN OFFICE OF JUSTICE, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE COMMISSION NIGERIA.


End Note



[1] POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium: Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel
in Today’s World, Rome, 24 November, 2013. No. 42.
[2], Evangelii Gaudium no 4.
[3] The Bible; Revised Standard Version
[4] Evangelii Gaudium, no. 5
[5] PAUL VI, Evangelium Nutiandi, no. 52.
[6] MADUEKE J., Three Recent Papal Documents, in New Evangelization in Nigeria: A Pastoral Contribution to the Synod for Africa (Emmaus), Kmensuo Educational Publishers Onitsha Nigeria, 1994, p. 12.
[7] Gaudium et Spes, no. 10.
[8] Evangelium Nutiandi,  no. 52.
[9] Evangelium Nutiandi,  no 15
[10] Ibidem.
[11] Evangelium Nutiandi,  no. 4.
[12] Evangelium Nutiandi,  no. 52.
[13] E.N. no. 18.
[14] GBUJI A.O., “The Meaning, Origin and Content of Evangelization” in New Evangelization in Nigeria: A pastoral Contribution to the Synod for Africa, 1994, p, 24.
[15] JOHN PAUL II, The Cross of Nowa Huta: A New Seed of Evangelization, Homily, June 9, 1979, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, July 16, 1979.
[16] Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops, Message to the People of Latin America, September 6, 1968: The Church in the Present Day, Transformation of Latin America in the Light of the Council, 22.
[17] POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, Address to Bishops at Nuciature in Lagos, 15 February, 1982.
[18] POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, Homily during the Mass for Nigerian workers, Holy Cross Cathedral Lagos, 16 February, 1982.
[19] GBUJI A.O., “The Meaning, Origin and Content of Evangelization”…. Op. cit., p. 26
[20] POPE ST. JOHN PUAL II, Salvifici Doloris, no. 30
[21] Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, May 30, 2011.
[22] POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, no 1.
[23] Evangelii Gaudium, no. 27.
[24] FISICHELLA R., The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization at the Presentation of Evangelii Gaudium, the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Vatican City, Nov. 26, 2014.
[25] E.G., no. 15
[26] VENDRAME C., La cura dei malati nel Nuovo Testamento. op cit. p. 50.
[27] SANDRIN L., Chiesa, comunità sanante, Una prospettiva teologico-pastorale. Pauline, Milano, 2000, p. 41.
[28] E.G., no. 104.
[29] E.G., no. 99.
[30] IBE A.C., The Church in the World of Healthcare, Unpublished Thesis, Camillianum International Institute of Pastoral Theology of Healthcare. Rome, 2003, p. 1.
[31] ASHLEY B.M., & O’ROURKE K.D., Health Care Ethics, A Theological Analysis. op cit. p. 395
[32] E.G., no. 15.
[33] JOSEPH CARDINAL BERNADIN, A Sign of Hope, A pastoral letter on Healthcare. Chicago, 18 October 1995, p. 20.
[34] BECKER A.H., The Compassionate Visitor, Resources for ministering to people who are ill. Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1985, p. 25.
[35] IBE A.C., The Church in the World of Healthcare, op. cit., p. 19-20.
[36] PAGOLA J.A., Evangelizzazione e Mondo della Salute, in CINA G., Dizionario di Teologia Pastorale Sanitaria. Edizione Camilliane, Torino, 1997,  p. 427.
[37] POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 1.
[38] POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 142.
[39] Evangelii Gaudium, no 154.
[40] Ibidem.
[41] Evangelii Gaudium, no. 137.
[42] Evangelii Gaudium, no. 155.
[43] Evangelii Gaudium, no. 157.
[44] Evangelii Gaudium, nos. 139-142.
[45] SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM, no. 5.
[46] FISHER A., Is there a distinctive role for the Catholic Hospital in GORMALLY L., Issues of a Catholic Bioethics. Op cit., p. 226.
[47] SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM, no. 7.
[48] Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 59.
[49] Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 61.
[50] FISHER A., Is there any distinctive role for the Catholic Hospital, in GORMALLY L., Issues for a Catholic Bioethics, op cit. p. 224.
[51] E.G. no. 47.
[52] E.G., no. 44.
[53] E.G., no. 49.
[54] PAUL VI, “The Suffering Church as the True Church” Weekly Audience, 3 August, 1966, in Herder Correspondence, Vol. 3, no. 12, Dec. 1966, p. 375.
[55] L’Osservatore Romano.24 -25 September, 1990.
[56] FISHER A., “Is there a distinct role for the Catholic Hospital,” in GORMALLY L., Issues for a Catholic Bioethics. Op cit., p. 204.
[57] ANTEZANA F., “A free Gift and an Act of Solidarity, in “Dolentium Hominum”, no. 31, 1996, p. 215.
[58] PAUL VI, Evangelium Nutiandi, no 81.
[59] E.G., no. 177.
[60] E.G., no. 52.
[61] JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae,  no.12,
[62] SYNOD OF BISHOPS, Second General Assembly, Rome, November 30, 1971.
[63] E.G., no. 38.
[64] CBCN, The Church and Nigerian social problems, Communiqué, February 1972, p. 60
[65] Ibidem, (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, no. 106.
[66] E.G., no. 183.
[67] E.G., nos. 185-186.
[68] E.G., no. 186.
[69] Ecclesia in Africa (E.A.), no. 106; cf. THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, on “Justice in the World”, AAS 63, Vatican Press, Roma, 1971, no. 40.
[70] E.G., no. 104.
[71] E.G., no. 213.
[72] E.G., no. 209.
[73] E.G., no. 206
[74] E.G., no. 280
[75] E.G., no., 265
[76] E.G., no., 270.
[77] BENEDICT XVI, Paul, his collaborators and his communities. Vatican Library Edition, Vatican City, 2009, pp. 61-64.  
[78] IBE A.C., The Church in the World of Healthcare…, op. cit., pp. 6-7.
[79] E.G., no. 33.
[80] POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 167.
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