In the Gospels, similar accounts of Christ’s commission are provided by Mark and Matthew. The setting is just prior to the Ascension.
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mk 16: 15-16
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Mt 28: 18-20
The apostles boldly preached the Good News of Jesus Christ and built up communities of believers. The early Christians found that their lives were changed when they said “yes” to Jesus and were baptized. This change was obvious to others by the way the new Christians lived their lives. Beyond that, they were eager to tell people about the cause of their changed lives and how, they too, could experience the same transformation.
Since Vatican II in the 1960s, the mission of the Church which we call Evangelization or sharing the Good News has been emphasized anew. Meetings of bishops, called Synods were held to keep alive the spirit of what had been discussed at the Council.
One of those Synods met in 1974 and was dedicated to the subject of Evangelization in the Modern World. According to the Vatican website, “At this assembly, the Synod Fathers re-emphasized the essential missionary character of the Church and the duty of each member to bear witness to Christ in the world.”
The work of this Synod was presented to Pope Paul VI and became input to his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World) issued in 1976.
We hear the term, “New Evangelization”. Is it really new? Well, yes and no. It is new in that it is being tailored to adapt to the change of times and cultures; it is not new in that it is the plan found in the Gospel and Tradition of the Catholic Church.
The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on 're-proposing' the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.
The New Evangelization offers hope. Jesus grants all people rest and comfort from the world's burdens (Mt. 11:28) by offering us the hope of salvation and eternal life. Through the “re-proposing” of the Gospel, the Church seeks to comfort all those who are burdened. The New Evangelization offers the gifts of faith, hope, love and new life in Christ.
The Church in the United States can be likened to the mustard seed. The Church has been present in the Americas since the first missionaries arrived in the 15th Century. Over the past five centuries, the Church's foundation has sprung up and taken root in the U.S., spreading her branches and offering shade to the weary. This can be seen simply by looking at the work of Catholic Charities on behalf of the poor, the network of Catholic schools offering education to millions, and the commitment of U.S. Catholics to the Church's social justice teachings. However, there is still work to do.
The seed of the Church is present, but the message of Jesus Christ needs to be re-sown and watered for those who have already heard Christ's call, but who have not been fully evangelized or catechized.
There is a plan for Evangelization in the United States. On Evangelization in the Modern World, issued by Pope Paul VI, provides the primary focus for the plan.
In 1992, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) approved and published Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States. In this plan, three goals are identified. This plan continues to guide our efforts today.
Goal I: To bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others
According to the Plan, “This goal calls Catholics to continue to hear the Good News at ever-deeper levels…The strategy of this goal is to so deepen the sense of Scripture and sacrament that Catholics will pray more fully and, with a greater understanding of Christ's call, live as disciples at home, at work, and in today's many cultural settings. This goal also seeks a greater openness to physical, mental, and cultural diversity among Catholics.”
Goal II: To invite all people in the United States, whatever their social or cultural background, to hear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ so they may come to join us in the fullness of the Catholic faith
According to the plan, “This goal means that we are to invite effectively every person to come to know the Good News of Jesus proclaimed by the Catholic Church…This goal means not only that people are invited but also that an essential welcoming spirit is present in Catholic homes and in all our Catholic institutions: parishes, organizations, hospitals, schools, chanceries, and centers of neighborhood service. This goal also has ecumenical implications.
“The strategy behind this goal is to create a more welcoming attitude toward others in our parishes so that people feel at home; next, to create an attitude of sharing faith and to develop greater skills to do this; then, to undertake activities to invite others to know the Catholic people better.”
Goal III: To foster gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family, and the common good of our society, so that our nation may continue to be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ.
This goal challenges Catholics to go beyond our personal relationship with God, our family, our parish, and our Church. We are asked to impact society with our Catholic values.
According to the plan, “This goal means supporting those cultural elements in our land that reflect Catholic values and challenging those that reject it. Catholics, who today are involved in every level of modern life in the United States, have to address our society as a system and also in particular situations.
“The transformation of our society in Christ particularly calls for the involvement and skills of lay men and women who carry the values of the Gospel into their homes, workplaces, areas of recreation—indeed, into all aspects of life.
This goal requires the strategy of strengthening our everyday involvement with those in need, of reflecting on the workplace and media, and of encouraging Catholic involvement in areas of public policy as a way of having greater impact on society's values.”
The love of neighbor, the reaching out to those who never have known Christ or whose relationship with Jesus has waned, the participation of all, the transformation of people and social structures, the use of new media to share faith—these are elements of our call to the New Evangelization.
— from Catholic Update Guide to the New Evangelization