Pope John Paul II, that great witness of the Gospel, has reminded us that “Evangelization is the most powerful and stirring challenge which the Church has been called to from her very beginning” (Veritatis splendor, 106). This flows from the mandate of Christ to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15).
There is a great deal of interest in evangelization and “new evangelization” or “re-evangelization” today. Bishops, priests, religious institutes, and the lay faithful have demonstrated a genuine desire to respond positively to this challenge to evangelize and re-evangelize. However, although programs and policies have been formulated, they often fail to note the most fundamental and necessary element: the absolute necessity and prerequisite for the personal holiness of the one evangelizing (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2013-2014).
There is a fundamental fact of life we must acknowledge: there is only one who truly has the power to evangelize and his name is Jesus Christ. To the extent that we enter into his life and mission we become a force for imparting the Gospel to the church, and through the church to “the whole creation.” As Pope Paul VI reminded us in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, “Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness” (#21).
To be an effective witness of the Gospel entails more “being” than “doing.” First, we have to become who we are. We are created in God’s image, and “the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” (cf. Col. 1:15) is Jesus. We, through grace, are called to become the presence of Jesus Christ in the world. There is no other authentic meaning of human existence. Indeed, “The man who follows Jesus Christ, the perfect man, himself becomes more of a man,” as the Second Vatican Council teaches (The Church in the Modern World, #41).
How, then, do we personally accomplish this fundamental mission of our lives? How in a practical way can we become who we are called to be: Jesus made present to the world?… Mary, mother of the Lord, mother of the church, spiritual mother of each and every Christian. Mary shows us the way to her Son, the one who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
It was through the faith and fiat of Mary and the creative artistry of the Holy Spirit, “the Lord and the giver of life,” that Life himself was conceived and brought forth in accordance with the Father’s perfect and holy will. This same essential dynamism goes on as the Body of Christ is conceived mystically and brought for in her members.
Authentic Marian devotion, which is Christocentric, and doctrinal in its foundation, will lead a person into this mystery of Jesus Christ (#964). It can help us to enter into the life and mission of Jesus Christ, and this is the only possible way each one of us can be an effective instrument for the “new evangelization.” Mary shows us how to “become like little children” in the one who is the only Son of the Father. She is faithful, obedient to his will, on fire with love even as far as the cross. In desiring to fulfill the Father’s will we say fiat to the Father’s most holy will: “Yes, Lord, here I am, come to do your will.”
Mary, although at the Annunciation she didn’t understand it all, “How can this be…?”, rendered the obedience of faith: “Be it done unto me according to your word…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We, like Mary, are called to give the assent of faith: to believe in God; to believe all that God has said and revealed to us, and to believe all that holy church proposes for our belief because He is truth itself (#1814). In accepting the revelation of God as interpreted authentically and authoritatively by the church’s magisterium we bring forth Christ in the world.
In her childlike simplicity and humility Mary becomes perfectly open to the action of the Holy Spirit — the “Lord and giver of life” as the Nicene Creed calls Him. He overshadows her and she becomes his spouse, conceiving the One who is Life itself. Hence, Mary, perfectly obedient to the Father’s will, and perfectly receptive to the action of the Holy Spirit, conceives and brings forth the One who is “Way, Truth, and Life” in a world that had lost its way, “exchanged the truth of God for a lie,” and rejected life in favor of sin which leads to death (“the wages of sin is death” Cf. Rom. 6:23).
Mary is the mother par excellence, for she is the mother of God (#495). This God, who is also true man, gave her to us from the cross in the person of his beloved disciple, St. John. As mother of the church Mary continues to fulfill a mother’s function (#963). A mother is one who says “yes” to life; one who conceives life and gives it the light of day. She then brings that life to maturity by nurturing it: feeding and educating her children. …[B]egin actively praying the rosary for the success of the new evangelization, since that success begins with each of us individually. The rosary is nothing less than the prayer of the Gospels. The Gospel is what evangelization is all about. As we pray the rosary we meditate upon the 15 mysteries, 13 of which are found explicitly in the Gospels, two of which can be deduced from the Scriptures.
The main prayers of the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” are gospel prayers. We begin to interiorize the Gospel, which means we begin to interiorize Jesus Christ, who is the “Good News” of the Gospel. We thus begin to become who we are. In becoming the living presence of Jesus, “the Light of the world,” we also become light for a world sinking into darkness under the weight of its own iniquity.
In this way we become a powerful force for the “new evangelization”, and, like St. Paul, we can cry out with joy: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me!” (Cf. Gal. 2:20).