33. The Grace of Evangelization
But how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe unless they have heard of him? And how can they hear unless there is someone to preach? And how can there be preachers unless they are sent? Scripture says: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who announce good news!’
The Congregation of the Mission, along with the whole Church, is able to state of itself that evangelizing is to be considered its own grace and vocation, and expresses its deepest identify (cf. EN, 14).
Independent of the reaction that the announcement of their saving message may produce in its hearers, the heralds of the Gospel are blessed because they communicate the Good News. If the case should arise that the Congregation would refuse to evangelize, it would destroy itself; on the other hand, by remaining faithful to its own evangelizing nature, the Congregation reaffirms the grace it has received from Jesus Christ to continue the work of salvation.
1. Cooperating with Jesus in the Establishment of His Kingdom
Saying the word “Vincentian” can produce enthusiasm and joy in the listener. This was the usual reaction of the first missionaries when they heard Saint Vincent express his own joy in being a part of the Little Company:
How happy we are to be in a Company that has as its purpose not only our personal sanctification, that is, that God come and dwell within us, but also the task of making Jesus loved and served by everyone, thus bringing about the salvation of the world … Let us work together with Jesus to extend his Kingdom. Does this not seem like a marvelous thing to do? This imitates the angels, who were sent to men and women to make God’s will known on earth. I ask you: is there, on the whole earth, a more desirable mission than ours? … The same Jesus Christ has ordained that God be known, served, and loved so that his Kingdom and his justice may be sought above all other things. Therefore, if our Lord exhorts us and orders us to live in this way, he will surely give us the grace to accomplish this task, and indeed, will increase grace in us according to the measure that we are faithful to our mission1.
2. “To Evangelize” Constitutes the State and the Vocation of the Church
The words of our Holy Founder, which we have just heard, are a statement of the raison d’etre of the Congregation. Like the whole Church, the Company recognizes that evangelization constitutes its special grace:
The Church knows this. She has a vivid awareness of the fact that the Savior’s words, ‘I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God,’ apply in all truth to herself. She willingly adds with St. Paul: ‘Not that I boast of preaching the Gospel, since it is a duty that has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!’ It is with joy and consolation that at the end of the great Assembly of the Congregation of 1974, we heard these illuminating words: ‘Once more, we wish to affirm that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.’ It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is, in fact, the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of his death and glorious Resurrection2.
3. There Is an Intimate Connection Between Christ, the Church and Evangelization
Just as the Church cannot be understood without Jesus and his specific mission of evangelization, so too the Congregation would not be known if it abandoned its evangelization activity.
There is a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her3.
- Am I grateful that God has called me to a Congregation that has as its motto: “to evangelize the poor?”
- Am I able to affirm with a holy pride that evangelization is my greatest happiness and consolation?
- Do I always evangelize others in the name of the Church and never contrary to the Church?
Oh God, who sent your Son into the world to be its true light, pour out the Spirit he promised us, that Spirit who would sow the truth in people’s hearts and awaken in them obedience to the faith. May all people be born again to new life in baptism and enter the fellowship of your one, holy people. We pray in the name of Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.