SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EVANGELIZATION
REFLECTION ON EVANGELII GAUDIUM 176-185
Daily Reading for Dec. 18: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 176-185
Reflection by Marc Cardaronella
God’s love is by it’s very nature communal, social, and outwardly focused. The interpersonal union of the Trinity is anything but a divine “member’s only” club. The very reason the universe exists is because the dynamo of life and love inside the Godhead can not and will not be contained within itself. God’s love is diffusive the philosophers say...it overflows it’s own boundaries and spreads like fire. It can’t be contained.
Therefore, animated by that same life and love, God’s faithful and the message they carry within their hearts also can not be contained. Christians are compelled to share their lives with others and to spread the good news. “The kerygma has a clear social content,” the Pope says, “At the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others.”
There are two implications here that present difficulties. The first is “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters’” in charity. The Pope says the “Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God.” Our salvation is important, but we’re saved from something and for something. That something is furthering the Kingdom of God. It’s not easy to share our faith and ourselves with others. It makes most of us uncomfortable. And yet, the social dimensions of the Gospel call for this tension to be resolved.
The second difficulty is that seeking God’s Kingdom and making it present in people’s lives necessarily means transforming society...and society doesn’t want to be transformed! During his time on earth, Jesus pushed back the kingdom of Satan by preaching, healing, and casting out demons. He transformed the world around him. He made it look more like the Kingdom. And, as more and more people became his followers, they did the same thing. Rome sought to eradicate Christianity, but instead became Christian. European culture and society owes it’s existence to the Church. Christianity is “meant to have an impact on society,” the Pope says. It can do nothing else because where the Kingdom of God exists, the kingdom of this world cannot...and it never leaves without a fight.
Catholicism can’t merely be a private affair. It never could be because Catholics exist in the world. Evangelization is naturally social because conversion is not just about the soul, but about life and where it’s lived. And, when Christian life flourishes, it bumps up against those aspects of society that aren’t converted. It’s our task as Christians to take our conversion to the culture and influence our own sphere of society through relationship, through community, and through the Gospel message.
Marc Cardaronella is a Catholic writer and speaker living in Champaign, IL. A former Navy pilot, he gave up the fast life for a more rewarding career as a Director of Religious Education. He is currently the father of two young boys, he writes about the reasons why people believe in Jesus Christ (and why they don't) on his personal blog: http://marccardaronella.com.