The idea of New Evangelization was initiated by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, which was in the context of the Church’s outreach to the modern world. Evangelization comes from the Greek word “euangelion” which means “to proclaim good news,” and it has been particularly used by Christians in every age to speak of the mission ad gentes, that is, the outreach of all peoples in the world to bring them to Christ. Pope Paul VI opined that evangelization will always contain at the foundation, center and at the same time, summit of its dynamism, a clear proclamation that in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy. In the preliminary remarks of the encyclical “Evangelii Nuntiandi”, Paul VI states that there is an expectation in the Church of “a new period of evangelization”, which entails having a revised method of evangelization, reshaping our methods of evangelization, seeking means and language for presenting the message of Christ anew to modern people especially to non- practicing Christians.
However, the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization, it is He who impels each individual to proclaim the Gospel, and it is He who in the depths of consciences causes the Word of salvation to be accepted and understood. But it can equally be said that He is the goal of evangelization, who alone stirs up the new creation, the new humanity of which evangelization is to be the result, with that unity in variety which evangelization wishes to achieve within the Christian community. In other words, through the power of the Holy Spirit, families are able to internalize the message of Christ and are able to proclaim it to the ends of the earth. we are not oblivious of the different challenges that are affecting the family in our world today. These ranges from single parenthood, infertility, childlessness, gender discrimination, individualism, and the abdication of the parental roles to our helpers and school teachers.
The nuclear family has its fair share of these challenges, which range from problems of marriage, incompatibility, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse, unemployment, poverty, conflicts and wars. All these poison the family and negate the purpose of the family as the basic unit of the society, the sanctuary of life and society. There is therefore the urgent need to re-evangelize the family today in order for it to realize its purpose. According to Evangelii Nuntiandi, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, 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.” One cannot fail to stress the evangelizing action of the family in the evangelizing apostolate of the laity.
At different moments in the Church’s history and also in the Second Vatican Council, the family has well deserved the beautiful name of “domestic church.” This means that there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church. Furthermore, the family, Family as agent of new evangelization like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates. In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized. The parent not only communicates the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them. And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part. The future of evangelization as we know depends greatly on the church of the home.
This apostolic mission of the family is rooted in baptism and receives from the grace of the sacrament of marriage new strength to transmit the faith, to sanctify and transform our present society according to God’s plan. Most especially today, the Christian family has a special vocation to witness to the Paschal covenant of Christ by constantly radiating the joy of love and the certainty of the hope for which it must give an account. The Christian family proclaims both the present power of the kingdom of God and the hope of blessed life to come. Evangelization is an integral part of Christian living. Because we all long for a loving God who can satisfy our inborn craving, the ordinary Christian family can be a powerful agent in proclaiming the gospel. Its life together gives witness to the fulfillment to be found by those who base their lives on human intimacy with God.
None of the Church’s efforts to set up evangelization programmes will match the importance and effectiveness of ordinary Christian families when they do their best to live the Christian life. Actions, especially the way we treat others, speak louder than words. By the witness of its daily life, the family allows the spirit of Christ to shine forth. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live and such witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Parents find themselves with a special role to play in the evangelization that goes on within the family.
They remain at all times during their children’s growing up years, their most influential and effective catechists. Parental actions remain more important than words, but actions without verbal commentary may not have as great an impact on the child as will a combination of two. The family must educate the children for life in such a way that each one may fully perform his or her role according to the vocation received from God. Indeed, the family that is open to transcendent values that fulfills its duties with generous fidelity, and is aware of its daily sharing in the mystery of the glorious cross of Christ, becomes the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the kingdom of God.