daily biblical sermons


Authentic evangelization is proclaiming salvation by faith in the death of Jesus Christ
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, November 30, 2019
Romans 10:9-18, Psalm 18, Matthew 4:18-22


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 NRSV).

 

 

Today is the feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, the brother of Simon Peter. Jesus called them saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Here we see Jesus giving them their vocation to be evangelizers, that is, active preachers of the gospel, which he defines as fishing for men, that is, calling them to conversion to Jesus Christ by proclaiming to them the message that God saves the world through faith in the atoning death of Christ on the cross for our sins. This is what authentic evangelization is all about. It is centered in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross, as St. Paul says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). When describing the message that he proclaims, St. Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

 

 

We need to reaffirm this today, for there are mistaken notions of what evangelization is all about in the Church today. We are even being told by some of our highest Church leaders that proselytization is something bad and that it is nothing but a lot of sanctimonious nonsense. This statement has been repeated multiple times by our highest Church leaders. Perhaps to them the word “proselytization” is a bad word, and so they prefer the word “evangelization,” but it comes down to the same thing, for they redefine evangelization as sensitivity to the culture and religion of non-Christian indigenous people and helping them to preserve and even revive their traditional non-Christian religious beliefs. They go on to say that we should not even mention Christ – unless they specifically ask us about him – for that would disturb their religion, which would disturb their culture and their whole worldview and way of life.

 

 

Of course, we must be culturally sensitive to other people, but it is false to say that we should therefore “evangelize” without Christ and that we should not in any way be active in approaching non-Christian people to proclaim to them what God has done to save the world in his only Son coming into the world and dying and rising for our salvation. This is clearly not authentic evangelization, and the people that are proclaiming this are engaging in a redefined and erroneous type of “evangelization.”

 

 

Jesus himself was most active in calling people to repentance and faith in the gospel. His tour of Galilee and what he preached is summarized by St. Mark as, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus was actively calling people to repentance and faith in the good news about the kingdom of God as he was inaugurating it in the world.

 

 

In today’s first reading St. Paul sums up the gospel that he preaches, and that we also should preach when we evangelize, saying, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 NRSV). We need to believe in our heart, and we need to confess our belief with our words in order to be saved and justified. Mere saying words that we do not believe in our heart will not justify us. And our believing in the heart, which is the essence of what we must do, should also express itself in words that will help to convert other people to the truth of salvation as God has revealed it to the world in Jesus Christ.

 

 

St. Paul then goes on to say, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Although St. Paul is quoting Joel here, the “Lord” that he is speaking of is Jesus Christ. In other words, all who call upon Jesus Christ with faith will be saved. But this requires evangelization, because no one can call upon Jesus Christ with faith if he has never heard of him. And the only way people are ever going to hear of Jesus Christ is if missionaries are sent to them who actively evangelize them; that is, who go out and announce to them the truth of what God has done in human history to save the world through his Son Jesus Christ by his death on the cross to make reparation for our sins.

 

 

So it is quite clear that active preaching of Christ is the essence of evangelization. Evangelization cannot be authentically reinterpreted as simply cultural sensitivity and helping people to preserve and value their own non-Christian religion. Evangelization is preaching Jesus Christ and his saving death on the cross, as St. Paul says in today’s first reading, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 NRSV).

 

 

So for most people, especially for people who have no written language, faith comes through hearing. It comes through hearing about Christ and hearing Christ’s own words, as St. Paul says today, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NRSV).

 

 

Then St. Paul declares that the world has indeed heard, even though most people have not believed what they have heard, “For ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world’” (Romans 10:18). Here St. Paul is quoting Psalm 18:5, but he is giving it his own personal meaning, namely that the voice of the apostles and preachers have gone out to the ends of the world (oikoumen?). In St. Paul’s day this Greek word for “world” (oikoumen?) was normally understood to mean the Roman Empire. That was the known world of their day. And indeed the voice of St. Paul and other apostolic workers had covered major cities in the Roman Empire, and so by a trickle-down effect the word would gradually spread through the grapevine of the spoken word throughout the Empire so that both Jews and Gentiles everywhere within the known world would have an opportunity to hear the gospel about Jesus Christ.

 

 

Today also we have another major obstacle to authentic evangelization. It is a document signed on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb stating, “The pluralism and diversity of religions, color, sex, race, and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which He created human beings.” This statement directly contradicts both Scripture and Catholic belief. For God clearly positively intended sexual differences, but he did not positively intend pluralism and diversity of religions. God did not positively intend and wish that people worship false gods. We see this from one end of the Old Testament to the other, where idol worship and worship of false gods is constantly condemned. It is the first commandment of the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me … You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:3, 5). When the Israelites in the desert worshiped the golden calf, the Lord God was angry, and Moses destroyed it.

 

 

Nonetheless this Abu Dhabi proclamation remains uncorrected and is being used by the Vatican as a guide for Catholic universities and for study of Christianity and Islam. If we were to follow this guide, we would have to redefine evangelization, as, in fact, it is being redefined in many areas, especially in the Amazon rainforest by the followers of this belief. For them evangelization is primarily cultural sensitivity and revival of pagan religions and “theologizing” based on non-Christian American Indian religious beliefs. According to this view, one should not mention the gospel or Jesus Christ in such “evangelization,” for it would disturb their culture, religion, worldview, and way of life. So we have an evangelization without Christ, unless people specifically inquire about Christianity and ask for information.

 

 

This is clearly a different spirit from St. Paul, the Scriptures, and the whole Christian tradition; and so we should clearly point out for the good of the Church and the world that this Abu Dhabi statement is false.

 

 

This, of course, does not contradict papal infallibility, for the doctrine of papal infallibility tells us that when the Pope defines something and clearly states that it is an infallible statement, then we are to accept it and believe it. This Abu Dhabi statement has not been proclaimed as an infallible statement, which means that it is fallible, that is, it may contain errors, even serious doctrinal and moral errors, which it indeed does.

 

 

This Abu Dhabi statement about God positively willing the diversity of religions just as he positively wills the diversity of the sexes also carries no magisterial weight, because it does not possess the qualities of authentic magisterium, namely that it never contradict Scripture, which this statement does.

 

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