Sense of duty

 Friday, 27 May 2016

“Evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity,” exclaims Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation,Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN, 14). His Holiness continues: “[The Church] exists in order to evangelize” (EN, 14).

Saint Pope John Paul II expounds on this core truth of the faith in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. In that monumental defense of the dignity and inviolability of human life, he reminds “all the various workers of the Gospel” that the call of evangelization “is also the case with regard to the proclamation of the Gospel of life” (EV, 79). Having received the gift of life from the Author of Life Himself, Saint John Paul acknowledges the sense of duty within each of us “to preach the Gospel of life” (EV, 79).

Yet, this sense of duty is often accompanied by another set of experiences which hinder our efforts to proclaim the dignity and value of the human person, especially of the unborn child. Perhaps we fear we are not intellectually prepared to make an articulate defense of life. Perhaps we worry the other with whom we are conversing will not be receptive and may respond with animosity. Perhaps we are concerned with our basic ability to begin a conversation on such a deeply divided issue like abortion. Aware of the fearful tendencies of the children of God, Pope Francis has advised us in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, that “[o]ur falling short of perfection should be no excuse” for not preaching the truth of the Gospel.

Pope Francis also recognizes the aspiration within the people of God to want “better training, a deepening love and a clearer witness to the Gospel” (EG, 121). Though all of these needs are not perfected within us, Pope Francis counsels us that “this does not mean that we should postpone the evangelizing mission” (EG, 121).  Instead, he encourages us that “despite our imperfections” the Lord offers “his closeness, his word, and his strength” to each of us in the work of evangelization (EG, 121).

In short, we have a great duty—born out of our encounter with the love of Jesus Christ—to evangelize regarding the dignity and beauty of human life, even when we find ourselves unprepared or ill-equipped. In fact, I would argue we will always find ourselves, in some way, unprepared to do the work of evangelization. Nevertheless, the Lord calls and sends us on the way, just as He sent the Disciples to preach the Gospel, instructing them to “take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” (Luke 9:3).

This is not to say, however, that we should shirk our responsibility to be educated and understand the Gospel of life. After all, we inherently yearn for the wisdom. Our intellect demands “better training” and catechesis on truths at the heart of the Gospel. “In this sense,” Pope Francis states, “we ought to let others be constantly evangelizing us” (EG, 121). We ought to learn from others how we can grow in our missionary discipleship regarding the Gospel of life and grow in our efforts to foster life-saving conversations on the issue of abortion.

In this regard, I turn your attention to some upcoming interactive workshops entitled “Taking Abortion from Debate to Dialogue” that will be facilitated by Justice For All. These workshops are intended to train individuals to create good dialogue about abortion by asking questions with an open heart, listening to understand, finding genuine common ground, and sharing the truth about abortion in a loving way. The workshops will provide training to respond to some of the common and most difficult pro-choice arguments, all within the context of being a good ambassador for Christ. The trainings will occur in early June in various locations (Broken Bow, Grand Island, Norfolk, St. Edward, and David City). There is no cost for the workshops. You can find more information and register If you are in the area of any of these workshops, I highly encourage you to attend. Equip yourself with the knowledge and wisdom to lead others to see the beauty and dignity of all human life—born and unborn.

by Tom Venzor,
Associate Director for Pro-Life & Family
Nebraska Catholic Conference