The love of the Father cannot be in anyone who loves the world, because nothing the world has to offer—the sensual body, the lustful eye, pride in possessions—could ever come from the Father but only from the world; and the world, with all it craves for, is coming to an end; but anyone who does the will of God remains for ever. John 1:16-17
This characteristic is to be kept in mind in this work of evangelization which the Congregation proposes to carry out: … striving to live in a state of continual conversion both on the part of each individual member and on the part of the whole Congregation, according to the mind of Saint Paul, who counsels us: ‘Do not be conformed to this work, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). Constitutions, 12, 6
In addition to the five characteristic virtues that are to accompany the apostolic activity of the Congregation, this last element—continuous inner conversion—ought to be added: since evangelization is a primary work of the Spirit, the missionaries sent to continue the mission of Christ must accept the urgent invitation from the Son of God to mentanoia. Without this disposition, our apostolic work will be ineffective.
1. Turning to God Through Prayer
Experience dictates to us that the missionary runs the risk of being ineffective, if while preaching to other people, he does not live the evangelical doctrine himself. On-going conversion obliges the whole Congregation and each one of its members to be transformed by the Spirit. Saint Vincent advised Monsieur Durand about the necessity of developing a relationship with God in prayer, whence light and strength come to preserve one’s vocation:
You must turn to God in prayer in order to live in the love of God. I have the obligation to tell you this and it is important that you understand it because many times we can lose direction as we attempt to serve others. At times, you work very well in a particular area, but forget your own needs while worrying about the needs of others. Saul was found to be worthy to be king because he lived a good life in his parent’s house; but, after he had been raised to the throne, he fell from God’s grace. Saint Paul disciplined his body because he feared that after preaching to others and teaching others the way of salvation, he, himself, might be found wanting1.
2. Transformation and Renovation of the Whole Person
Only God’s will endures forever; everything else is passing. The exercise of following the divine will introduces the missionary to the Kingdom of God which was announced by Jesus. It is a Kingdom of holiness, which is opposed to the greed of the world. Paul VI spoke clearly about this Kingdom:
One can only arrive at metanoia, that is, that personal and total transformation and renovation of the whole person—of all one’s feeling, judgments, and attitudes—when one lives united to God and walks in the light of holiness and charity as manifested and communicated to us by Jesus2.
3. The World Expects from Us a Simplicity of Life and a Spirit of Prayer
Following the same line of thought, the Church reminds us of the holiness required of the evangelizer:
It is urgent that our evangelizing zeal spring from true holiness of life, and as the Second Vatican Council suggests, preaching must, in its turn, make the preacher grow in holiness—a holiness which is nourished by prayer and above all by a love for the Eucharist. The world which, paradoxically and despite innumerable signs of the denial of God, is nevertheless searching for him in unexpected ways and painfully experiencing the need for Him—this world is calling for evangelizers to speak to it about a God whom the evangelizers themselves know and are familiar with, as if they could see the invisible. The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, a spirit of prayer, charity toward all, especially toward the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice. Without these marks of holiness, our word will be unable to touch people’s hearts. It risks being vain and sterile3.
- Have I understood that the work of evangelization depends more on the Spirit, than on my own activity?
- Do I open my heart and mind every day to conversion, seeking to practice the maxims of Jesus Christ?
- Do I offer to the people whom I evangelize the testimony of a simple, obedient, humble, charitable and prayerful life?
Oh God, do not allow us, your servants, to become ineffective in the proclamation of the Good News. Be our Shepherd, and do not deny us the grace that you give to others through our ministry and function. We ask this in the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.