Preparing a Culture to Receive the Gospel

Evangelization requires preparation: not just on the part of the evangelist, but also on the part of those who are to be evangelized. We see this fairly plainly in the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13:3-8,18-23). If the soil of Western culture is not ready to receive the Gospel, much of our effort will likely be in vain. Therefore it seems to me that one of the principal objectives of the New Evangelization will be to foster an environment in which the message of the Gospel can take root and thrive.

Lumen Gentium 16 states that “Whatever good or truth is found amongst [people who have not received the Gospel] is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.” (I think the same probably holds true for those who are nominally Christian but who have not yet taken the Gospel message to heart.) So we don’t have to reject the current culture wholesale and start from scratch. Rather, the Church “fosters and takes to itself, insofar as they are good, the ability, riches and customs in which the genius of each people expresses itself. Taking them to itself, it purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles them” (LG 13). It seems to me that the first two tasks–those of purifying and strengthening the culture–ought to be done concurrently as a preparation for re-evangelization, which will then yield fruit that elevates and ennobles the culture.

There is much in our culture that hinders the Gospel from taking root in our life, by both denial and distraction. Rather than going into specifics here, I’ll merely pose the question: to what extent does our Christian faith inform our daily life? Purifying one’s own life is a sine qua non of purifying the culture.

The second task–that of strengthening the good elements in our culture–is to be achieved through similar means. Faithfully living one’s vocation in accord with sound Christian teaching, whether as parent, leader, artist, journalist, educator–the list goes on and on–affirms what is best in our society, and prepares others to receive the Gospel, giving them an alternative to the empty materialism and relativism of our age.

The point here is that the best way to prepare the culture for the New Evangelization is to strive to live authentically Christian lives–from the way we vote and how we live our vocation, to the entertainment we consume and how we interact with our neighbors–so that our witness may change the hearts and minds of others, and make them more receptive to the Gospel.

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About Emmett Hall

I'm a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, working on a theology degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. My views are solely my own, based on a reasonable grounding in the Western Tradition, and subject to correction if necessary. They do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or any institution with which I am associated.
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