8. New Evangelization, human relationships, prophecy and education
The following text is the intervention the Father General, Mario Aldegani, made at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, held in October 2012. It is about the relationship between evangelization, human relationships and education. The text draws from our spirituality and educative tradition and deals with today’s challenges. In a special way its aim is to base the NE on an anthropologic vision of mankind, marked by trust and hope, in order to be a prophecy about the meaning and truth of the human. In this perspective educating gets a specific and privileged place in the context of the NE, provided that the educators fully undertake that we all inhabit the same terrain of humanity, enriching it with relationships in which the Word can resound as a demanding call, but one that brings salvation and joy.
Fr. Mario Aldegani
If you want to deepen
8. New Evangelization, human relationships, prophecy and education (Fr. Mario Aldegani)
The practice of evangelization is located within a practice of human relations. The quality and the substance of relationships are often undervalued in evangelization, or regarded from a purely instrumental perspective, for the purposes of welcoming the Good News. To live in truth a human relationship means allowing oneself to be reached by the call, that is both a promise and a gift, inscribed in life itself; an appeal to sharing, walking together, welcoming, becoming responsible, and feeling that what one possesses also belongs to the other and is a gift for all. The human quality of relationship is kept alive, in the believer, by the consciousness that the heart and flesh of every human being bear the image of God, the trace of Christ’s salvation. This awareness opens the believer to listen, to let him be reached by the gifts of others, to be able to receive, to think that God comes to meet him in the newness brought in by others. At the same time, this opens up to become responsible for the other one, to the responsibility of making him participant in the gift of the Gospel.
Relationship is marked by difference: the other has something that I have not, I have something that he does not have; I offer him the gift of the Gospel, he, perhaps even a non-believer, gives me something that helps me to be a Christian. Relationship is also and always, in the end, asymmetric, just because it is under the sign of difference; and the sense of difference is the antidote to indifference. Always, however, there is a horizon of reciprocity and free exchange of gifts, there is always a sense of gift or grace, preceding all and breaking the one-sidedness.
Reciprocity and difference, exchanging gifts and gratuitousness, humanity and grace, are part of the truth of relationship, are necessary so that the Gospel may resound in truth, in fact are already a sign that God is at work; they are (must be so) within the horizon (background, atmosphere) of the practice of evangelization. And such horizon is the same one of Revelation, which has not an extrinsic nature in respect to evangelisation, but it has a sacramental nature. (cf. Fides et Ratio and Verbum Domini).
It may be asked if the first problem of evangelization is not a problem of horizon, of climate, of air that we breathe. It may be asked whether the practices of evangelization are always those of true relationships, and if they are therefore situated on the path of the current work of God. While it is true that there is a confidence crisis in life throughout many areas of contemporary life and the educational crisis itself, it is also true, perhaps, that this same confidence crisis also enters into ecclesial environments and the very practices of evangelization. Evangelization, in reality, needs a climate of trust, in a network of relationships distinguished by hope. The very act of God, the first educator of every man needs trust, and indeed trust is the sign that He is already acting.
An evangelizing practice marked by trust and hope must be supported by anthropological reflection, deeply inspired by Revelation. Rather than combining the anthropological with the theological, this involves thinking of the human in the light of and with the inspiration of Revelation and of the Easter of Christ. It involves, more radically, fully and truthfully inhabiting the human and the hints of revelation and redemption that it carries within itself. Such inspiration and inhabiting signify a prophetic presence in today’s world. Nowadays there cannot be evangelization without prophecy on the meaning and truth of the human. Human identity is under the sign of being a gift, of the constitutive bond of brotherhood before freedom, of finding ourselves by self-giving and by grace, of acknowledging that we are creatures, of loving till giving our lives. These traits of truth and prophecy of the human are both condition and effect of evangelization; they are its horizon and surrounding climate. The proposal of the encounter with Christ, the heart of evangelization, is the mediation of a contact, in the Church, with the One who accompanies supports, heals and keeps us on the path of true life and true humanity.
Men’s need for prophecy, as implied as urgent and the need for a prophetic evangelisation on the meaning and truth of the human, challenge the whole Church. We, called to the consecrated life, feel particularly challenged. Consecrated life in fact is prophecy. Consecrated life is called to find its roots and its meaning in Christ, to be a sign of radical evangelical witness and, at the same time and for this reason, to express the true meaning of the human. Religious vows, as an expression of following Christ and as a path to fullness of humanity, are a prophetic sign. Community life is witness and prophecy of human relationships in the sign of co-responsibility, of reciprocity, of gratuitousness and grace.
Education is a privileged place of evangelization and exercise of prophecy. In many experiences, and in the experience of many consecrated men and women, evangelization and education are profoundly interwoven. Evangelization does not overlap education. Educational practice needs evangelical inspiration, even a stronger announcement of the Gospel. It helps to discover that contact with Christ opens our eyes and hearts to what is truly human. The witness and proclamation of the Gospel need to be located within educational paths crossed by a climate of research and trial of true humanity. The effort to restore a high standard for Christian witness is intertwined with the effort to restore a high standard for education. The educational field, in fact, is a ground of meeting, or covenant, between believers and non-believers, between the human and the evangelical; it is a place of dialogue, communication tests, interaction between traditional languages and new languages. On the condition that there is an opening to the human and its truth, and provided, for believers, that they prophetically inhabit the terrain of the human.
Communication, and evangelization itself as a relational and communicative practice, are possible as they inhabit the same terrain, which can only be the terrain of true humanity. But to truly inhabit this “terrain” (the earth, all that which is human) means to inhabit the path of Revelation and Redemption, and to intercept the current Word of God. On this terrain the evangelizer may truly make the Word that saves resound, and the listener may be truly aware of it as an interpellating and liberating word, demanding, but a bearer of joy.
Fr. Mario Aldegani