By Fr. I. Raymond Joseph –
“The family is the domestic church”. The meaning of this traditional Christian idea is that the home is the Church in miniature. The family is the “first and vital cell of society”. The future of the world and of the Church, therefore, passes through the family. “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” -This is a quote from the Homily of Pope St. John Paul II which was held on 30 November 1986, Perth (Australia).
In these thirty years the universal Church is not only faithful to the aforesaid words uttered by Pope St. John Paul II, then Roman Pontiff, but also continues to express its concern for the wellbeing of the families all over the world and thereby ascertained its umbilical cord relationship with the Christian families.
Importance of Amoris Laetitia
In his homily at the Canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II on 27 April 2014, Pope Francis described John Paul II with these words: “In his own service to the People of God, Saint John Paul II was the Pope of the Family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the Pope of the Family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.”
It should be clear to us now why Pope Francis has begun his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love, 19 March, 2016), with the words “The joy of love experienced in the families is also the joy of the Church” (AL, 1). This is nothing but to tell us that he is determined in carrying forward the legacy of Pope St. John Paul II, i.e., the Church’s foremost task of the evangelization of the family and through the family.
It is at this juncture that the topic of our interest today emerges, i.e., “Family Evangelization in the Context of Christian Life”. I would like to divide my presentation into three parts. First, let me focus on the biblical foundation of the family evangelization; Second, my focus will be analyzing the way the universal Church has responded to the need of Family Evangelization through its recent documents; third, I will be proposing the ways and means of Family Evangelization in Today’s Context.
Evangelization of the Word
Even though we know more or less the meaning of the word ‘evangelization’, before entering into the three divisions of my talk let me first of all clarify the term “evangelization”. The word ‘evangelization’ comes from the Greek word ‘euangelion’ which means good news, reward for bringing good news. One who brings the good news is ‘euangelos’ in Greek, meaning the messenger. We can explain the word ‘evangelization’ in the words of Pope Paul VI, who in his Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Nuntiandi” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 8 December, 1975) explains that it is in bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself (EN,18). Evangelization, therefore, includes three distinctive elements: 1. interior conversion to Christ and his Church; 2. affecting not only the individual person but the whole culture; and 3. as a result, changing this culture and its institutions to make them Christian and Catholic.
Evangelization, then, has both an inward and an outward direction. Inwardly it calls for our continued receiving of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our ongoing conversion both individually and as Church. It nurtures us, makes us grow, and renews us in holiness as God’s people. Outwardly evangelization addresses those who have not heard the Gospel or who, having heard it, have stopped practicing their faith, and those who seek the fullness of faith. It calls us to work for full communion among all who confess Jesus but do not yet realize the unity, for which even Jesus prayed in his own life time. St. Pope John Paul Il, in his encyclical on “Redemptoris Missio”, (The Mission of the Redeemer, 7 December 1990), summed up the three objectives of mission: 1) to proclaim the Gospel to all people; 2) to help bring about the reconversion of those who have received the Gospel but live it only nominally; and 3) to deepen the Gospel in the lives of believers (RM,33).
To be continued…
Fr. I. Raymond Joseph is Executive Secretary for the CCBI Commission for VSCR at the CCBI Centre, Bangalore