VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The new evangelization is learning to really experience God’s mercy and salvation so they can be shared with others, especially those most in need, Pope Francis said.
In fact, how the church is educating people in the faith needs to go beyond classroom instruction and actually show them places where Christ is truly present and active in the world today, he said May 29.
The pope made his comments in an address to those taking part in the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization’s plenary session on “the relationship between evangelization and catechesis.”
Linking the council’s work of also preparing for the upcoming extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the pope said the new evangelization is becoming aware “of the merciful love of the Father so that we, too, become instruments of salvation for our brothers and sisters.”
God’s mercy cannot be some abstract concept, he said. It has to be a real, “concrete experience in which we realize our weakness and the power/strength that comes from on high.”
The very first step in order to receive that mercy is praying to God, pleading with him to help and “rescue me.”
The Holy Spirit is the one who opens up the heart of the faithful to receive this gift of forgiveness and then to transform it into love for others, he said.
Once people feel God’s infinite compassion, “we also can become compassionate toward others.”
By opening one’s mind up to the Holy Spirit, he said, Christians can “more deeply understand the task that is asked” of them and the ways they can give “weight and credibility to their witness.”
This mission requires proclaiming the Gospel with “pastoral wisdom” and a renewed language for the people and times of the world today, he said.
“This is essential both in order to be understood by our contemporaries and so that Catholic tradition may speak to today’s cultures of the world and help them open themselves up to the perennial fruitfulness of Christ’s message.”
The church should not be afraid of the huge challenges before it in evangelization, but do all it can to offer “coherent answers” in the light of the Gospel, he said.
“This is what the men and women expect today from the church: that it know how to walk with them, offering companionship of the testimony of faith,” he said.
How people are educated in the faith is an essential, not rhetorical, question he said, and it will require responses that display “courage, creativity, and the decision to take paths sometimes still unexplored.”
Catechism, in fact, “needs to go beyond the simple scholastic sphere in order to educate believers, from the time they are children, about encountering Christ, alive and operating in his church.”
“It is the encounter with him that sparks the desire to know him better and therefore to follow him in order to become his disciples.”
The challenge of the new evangelization and catechesis, therefore, hinges on “this fundamental point: how to encounter Christ, what the most coherent place is in order to find him and follow him,” he said.