2.0: The Spirit of the New Evangelization
“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. ”
Words are intensely powerful, most likely because they are a reflection of the Divine. With a word, tyrants have put to death and with a word the life of an enemy has been spared. We use words to praise each other, comfort each other and also to chop each other into manageable pieces for intellectual annihilation. By a single word, the messenger from Marathon told the Athenians of victory and over a single word, the Church was divided. In a word, what we say and how we say it has the potential to impact history in ways we can not possibly imagine. A thousand thoughts and implications can be expressed through one word, but it is also the case that words fail us. In the face of sublime beauty, or a mind-blowing revelation, we are rendered speechless. And this is how it should be, for full Reality can only be expressed through The Word, the Expression, the Son of God the Father. Our very attempts to speak are as nothing compared to the Reality that is God and his creation.
What’s the point?
The point is that we have been called, as John the Evangelist was called, to preach the Good News of the Word. We have been called to be heralds of the gospel. We have been sent to preach salvation to a world still bound by sin. In our current age, we have been called to the New Evangelization, and it seems to me, we don’t quite have the words for it.
We bloggers take ourselves so seriously. We write long blog posts about the issues of the age and about the truths we profess. We type word after word after word and press “Submit” so that those words might be accessible to the whole world. Obviously, we are the future, even the present manifestation of Christ’s exhortation to “Go out to the world and teach all nations.” But are we not perhaps forgetting that our words alone can only fail at expressing the Good News of Salvation? Not only are our words often mean-spirited, but even our well meaning words are not enough.
Social networking and cyber-connectedness is a new thing and so it demands new methods of evangelization and this necessity for proclaiming the Gospel in virtual realm has been made clear over and over again. But let us not get swept away in the newness of it all. Let us not proclaim the Spirit of the New Evangelization without understanding that the New Evangelization is not a new Gospel. The Gospel does not change just because we are now connected to each other virtually. The Gospel is not just words on a screen that people can read and comment about and fight over. The Gospel is not a virtual Gospel, it is a Gospel of true, physical, human relationships. “The Word was made flesh and made His dwelling among us.” The Son of God did not project the Word onto a big screen for the world to see and read. He came down and became one of us, to talk to us, to eat with us, to pray with us. He entered into a fleshly relationship with is. For goodness sake, the highest expression of the unity of the Church is eating the physical body of Christ.
Blogging might be vitally important to the work of the Church, but words without a physical expression of the words lose their full potential to change hearts. The Word of God has existed from Eternity, but the salvation of souls was enacted through His Incarnation. Just because we can de-incarnate the gospel through virtual means doesn’t mean we should. In fact, we shouldn’t. God Himself used the physical to bring the Gospel to the world.
It is cowardly to hide behind the screen of the written word. Martin Luther was willing to nail his 95 theses to a church door but was not willing to attend the Council of Trent. He’s a man who took himself and his ideas seriously. But he was a coward. Can we really say we’re much different? But it is important to remember that the Gospel takes courage to preach. It take courage to talk to that person across the room from you while you’re both typing away at your computers. It takes courage to object, in real life, to an action which is sinful. How are we fulfilling our mission as Christians if when we see injustice and evil right next to us, we turn to our computers and complain about it, using words but doing nothing? This might be controversial among bloggers, but as much effect we are able to have on our readers for their conversion (and we do have some, don’t get me wrong) our primary mission is to the people in our lives. We can’t be Sola Scriptura evangelists….by the written word alone. We can’t “use words always, preach the gospel when necessary.”
And now that I’m done comparing Catholic bloggers to Lutherans, I want to talk about how we can change, for conversion is not only for the Lutheran who might stumble on our “Catholic” blogs. It is for us as well.
I think we should take our cue from what I would call the Mystic-Philosophers. The greatest thinkers of the early Church (and in fact, the late Church) have not only been writers of brilliant philosophy and theology, they have been mystics. St. Thomas Aquinas is one of our most famous philosopher-theologians, but he realized that next to the mystical experience of Christ, his work was nothing. We can not take one side of Aquinas without the other. St Teresa of Avila was a great spiritual writer whose understanding of the soul is perhaps unrivaled, but how did she get that understanding? It was through a mystical relationship with Christ. Blessed Pope John Paul II was a philosopher, but he was a mystic who had an intense and obvious love for his Saviour. Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian of mystical joy.
It is, in the end, about relationship. We do not want a virtual relationship with Christ, we want a physical and mystical relationship with Him. Our thoughts are merely human thoughts if not connected to our relationship with Christ. And by extension, our words are merely human words if not integrated into a relationship to those that hear us. Blogging is important, for it helps us to express Truth and it helps us to express it in a very open and public place. But the Spirit of the New Evangelization can not regard as obsolete the Old Evangelization. Instead, the Old and New Evangelizations are meant to be used to their mutual enrichment.
It is not two Evangelizations at all, but one Gospel which is the Word Himself. That Word, a physical Word, a relational Word, can express more than all the words we write combined. Let us balance our virtual words with our physical words. Let us live an integrated life where our Evangelization does not depend on pixels and fiber-optic cables. Turn to the person beside you and proclaim the Joy of the Resurrection. Your words made physical will express it better than any well formatted blog.
And yes, you should believe me because you read this on a computer screen.