Sent to Proclaim the Gospel - Honouring the Legacy of St Paul VI by Jim McManus C.Ss.R. Redemptorist Publications, pbk, 164 pages, 2018, £12.99
Pope Paul VI's great Encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, [EN], on evangelisation, written in 1975, is the spark of this book, which is timely, coming soon after his recent canonisation. In seven chapters the author spells out what the universal call to be an evangeliser means in today's world. He uses a variety of resources culled from Vatican II documents, and the writings of all the recent Popes from Paul VI to Francis, via John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The keys which unlock the riches of this book are a couple of paragraphs from EN: they are worth quoting in full.
"Evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists to evangelise, that is to say, in order 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 resurrection." [para 14, quoted on p 12 and p 43]
"May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelisers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ, and are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world." [para 80, quoted on p 35]
The author teases out these two quotes in the rest of the book, beginning the quote in EN14. He then asks where we are to get the motivation to become evangelisers, using a seminal quote from John Paul II: "The burning desire to encounter the One whom we have encountered is the start of the evangelising mission to which the whole Church is called." [JPII, The Church in America 68] This is the call and task of every single member of the Church.
Next comes a chapter reflecting on how we prepare our minds and hearts for the work of evangelisation. It is impossible to make Jesus known to others unless we grow daily into a deeper relationship with him ourselves as individuals called by Christ. But it is within each parish, which, as Pope Francis says, is called to be "an oasis of mercy"[Misericocrdiae Vultus 12], that evangelisation needs to be grounded. Each and every missionary disciples has to be ready to undergo a daily conversion so that they can love others as Jesus loves them, and make sure all are made welcome, and feel accepted, loved and valued.
The final two chapters focus first on the message - the kerygma, to use the original Greek word for it! - that Jesus asks us to proclaim: the good news of his death and resurrection for the salvation of the whole world. And the book concludes with a reflection on the community celebration of the core kerygma, the Eucharist.
Paul VI's legacy is well and truly explained in clear terms in this book, and the writer shows how the popes who followed him have enhanced the message of each member of the Church as a missionary disciple, called to become an ever better evangeliser in ordinary everyday living: a message that is both urgent and opportune.
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