‘In the days to come I will pour out my spirit on all people. Their sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. Even on my slaves, men and women, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.’ Acts 2:17-18
This characteristic is to be kept in mind in this work of evangelization which the Congregation proposes to carry out: … attention to the realities of present-day society, especially to the factors that cause an unequal distribution of the world’s goods, so that we can better carry out our prophetic task of evangelization. Constitutions, 12, 2
All Christians are called to participate in the prophetic Mission of Jesus, but all have not received in like fashion the grace of the Spirit. Missionaries must put themselves at risk as they proclaim the Gospel message with courage and humility, without manipulation or ambiguity. As a prophet, Saint Vincent publicly denounced the abuses of the powerful as they denied the poor access to their rights. He did this with love and charity. He tried to bring the rich closer to the poor, whom he felt bound in justice to serve. As a prophet, Saint Vincent did not speak for personal gain, but rather as the voice of the poor who reveal the person of Jesus Christ.
1. Priests Have Reason to Fear the Judgment of God
The example of Saint Vincent should animate our action on behalf of the poor. It is certain that the “Advocate of the Poor” was not always listened to when he interceded for the poor, but he labored with a clear conscience, attacking injustice and promoting charity. The prophetic dimension of evangelization which filled Saint Vincent also inspired the other priests of the Mission, to whom he addressed these words:
Priests have much reason to fear the judgment of God, even apart from their own sins. God will demand an account of them from the people … and what is even more terrifying, God will find some priests deserving of the punishments they have not opposed or addressed—the calamities which afflict the Church everywhere, e.g., plagues, war, hunger, heresy1.
2. All this Is Not Foreign to Evangelization
In spite of the Church’s continued efforts to aid the holistic development of the person, the condition of many peoples continues to be very distressing. This is another motive for the missionary to be inflamed with apostolic zeal:
As we know, people are engaged with all their energy in an effort and a struggle to overcome those things which condemn them to remain on the margin of life: famine, chronic disease, illiteracy, poverty, injustices in international relations and especially in commercial exchanges, situations of economic and cultural neo-colonialism sometimes as cruel as the old political colonialism. The Church, as the bishops repeated, has the duty to proclaim liberation to millions of human beings, many of whom are her own children—the duty of assisting the birth of this liberation, of giving witness to it, of ensuring that it is complete. This is not foreign to evangelization2.
3. The Liberation That Evangelization Announces
The work of evangelization must take into consideration the extremely serious problems of our brothers and sisters and address their social, economic and religious questions. In situations so sensitive and urgent, let us heed the words of Paul VI:
With regard to the liberation which evangelization proclaims and strives to put into practice, one should rather say this: it cannot be contained in the simple and restricted dimension of economics, politics, social or cultural life; it must envisage the whole person, in all aspects, right up to and including an individual’s openness to the absolute, even the Divine Absolute; it is, therefore, attached to a certain concept of the person, a view of the person which can never be sacrificed for the needs of any strategy, practice or short-term goal3.
- Am I alert to the social, economic, political, cultural and religious questions that affect my evangelization?
- Am I silenced by my fears before the powers of the world, and, therefore, restricted in following the Gospel demand to denounce injustice?
Grant us, Lord Jesus, the courage and the confidence necessary to honestly announce the Good News to all people so that, aided by the gift of strength, we may better carry out the prophetic work of evangelization. We ask this in your name Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.