Natural Family Planning & the New Evangelization
IT'S NOT 'CATHOLIC BIRTH CONTROL'
Readers of Catholic journals and newspapers have certainly heard of the “new evangelization” during the past decade. On December 12, 2000, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger delivered an address to catechists and religion teachers, titled “The New Evangelization: Building the Civilization of Love,” as part of the Jubilee of Catechists; less than a month later Pope John Paul II issued his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte about evangelizing in the new millennium. There seems to be universal agreement that a new evangelization is a good thing that needs to be done. But what is it?
There is really nothing startlingly new about it — only a decided emphasis on sharing the basics. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in his Jubilee address, “Man cannot do or avoid doing what he wants to. He will be judged. He must account for things…. If we take the Christian message into well-thought-out consideration, we are not speaking about a whole lot of things. In reality, the Christian message is very simple: We speak about God and man, and thus we say everything.”
In his apostolic letter, John Paul II drew attention to the public admission he had made in March 2000 of the sins within the Church, as if to say, We are to share the light of the Lord, but we acknowledge that our own behaviors can cloud that light. The Pope noted the importance of weekly Mass. “It is a fundamental duty, to be fulfilled not just in order to observe a precept but as something felt as essential to a truly informed and consistent Christian life…. In many regions Christians are, or are becoming, a ‘little flock’ (Lk. 12:32). This presents them with the challenge, often in isolated and difficult situations, to bear stronger witness to the distinguishing elements of their own identity.” The change of emphasis is palpable — not just avoiding mortal sin but bearing witness to Jesus.
The “new” evangelization puts greater emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus. With this perspective, we are able to see the sacraments and the Church herself in a new light. When we confess our sins, we are more conscious that it is Jesus who exercises His power of forgiveness through His priest. When we consider the teaching authority of the Church, we understand that the Holy Spirit uses it to continue the teaching work of Jesus, rather than seeing it as the arbitrary announcements of men who wear funny hats. We are to listen to the Word, proclaim the Lord Jesus with confidence, and bear witness to the Lord by keeping His commandments. Of significant importance, we are to explain the reasons for the teachings of the Church that are particularly difficult for some in our culture to accept. As John Paul II wrote, “A special commitment is needed with regard to certain aspects of the Gospel’s radical message which are often less well understood, even to the point of making the Church’s presence unpopular, but which nevertheless must be a part of her mission of charity. I am speaking of the duty to be committed to respect for the life of every human being, from conception until natural death.”
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