I rather have a suspicion most Catholics who talk about the New Evangelization do not mean preaching the Gospel on street corners.
In fact, the idea might seem awfully Protestant or embarrassing or low class. I must confess that even when I was a Protestant, during my Baptist days the street corner evangelist-type made me cringe.
In the 1990s, at least once a week, a young man in a suit would stand on a busy downtown Ottawa street and preach about God's love, our need for repentance, and the price Jesus Christ paid for our sins. He would part the crowd sea like Moses as people tried to avoid his eye and pass by as quickly as they could. I could see the scorn many had for him. Lord knows, I was glad it wasn't me with that calling. Or presumption or whatever it was.
Then one day, I saw him speaking one on one with a young woman. They were seated in a little concrete park on the corner where he usually preached. What if he brought her to Christ? What if, for all his trouble, he brought say, one person a week to know Jesus as Lord and Savior? One person a month? One person a year? Hmmmm. I certainly did not have that kind of record.
After that, when I passed him, I would catch his eye and smile. I would give him a thumbs up of encouragement. But I was still grateful this was not my calling.
Then in 1998, The Billy Graham Mission was coming to town and our Baptist church was one of the preparation hubs, training counselors who would follow up on those who went forward to Billy Graham's altar call as the choir sang "Just As I Am."
I enrolled and at first I thought, my goodness, what a public relations juggernaut this is, with every detail glossily packaged down to the last detail. The teachings were simple but good, however, focusing our ability to share the Gospel and making me realize most of us had no confidence or practice in doing so. Then came the "Billy Graham homework." We were given a tract (a tract!) and asked to share it with someone that week.
Entirely dismayed, I went home and wrestled with the assignment, thinking, I am so not a tract-handing-out-type Christian. How embarrassing. But then, it hit me. I was ashamed of the Gospel. I would so rather be cool, or popular or sophisticated in how I presented my faith than to just simply share the Good News. I did the homework and was amazed at what happened. You can read more about it here.
I've been thinking a lot about this since watching videos of a Toronto pastor who brought a little portable cart full of pamphlets and a microphone to the recent Gay Pride Parade and started preaching about God's love, about how we are all sinners, how Jesus paid the price for our sins and invites us to come to Him.
Pastor David Lynn was insulted, screamed at, and had some kind of soft drink thrown in his face. But that's not the worst of it. Instead of having his rights of freedom of expression protected, he was told by Toronto police he was promoting hate. Here's an excerpt of LifeSiteNews.com's coverage. If you go to LifeSite there are links to several videos of the confrontations.
Lynn then accused the officer of “taking sides.” By now six officers had surrounded the preacher.
“This is Canada Day, and I have freedom to believe whatever I want to believe and to preach what I want to preach,” said Lynn to the gathering police force.
One officer shouted at the cameraman “Hey, you’re blocking the sidewalk now”, and forcefully grabbed for the camera. Other cameras that caught the action show a police officer manhandling Lynn’s cameraman, pushing him along the sidewalk.
“Pack it up,” officers repeatedly said.
By now Lynn was surrounded by as many as 12 police officers.
“I don’t need a permit to preach,” Lynn said. “You’re discriminating against me because I’m preaching the Gospel.”
“You’re promoting hate,” staff sergeant R. Pasini said.
Police finally compelled Lynn to leave amid shouts of “Thank you Toronto police” from pro-homosexual spectators."
Lynn also says he was flabbergasted by the “hate” that was shown to him and his ministry team by the homosexual paraders.
“To see Christians hated so aggressively by members in that community…I haven’t seen that level of hatred. And there were cheers for that kind of hatred and that kind of discrimination. If that’s what that parade is about — hatred towards Christianity — that’s scary.”
Despite all the hostility, Lynn says that his street ministry that day was not in vain.
“Over 100 free bibles were voluntarily picked up.” An estimated 5000 tracts filled with Gospel messages were also picked up.
I dunno. I'm reminded of the Book of Acts and the courage shown by St. Paul when he spoke in the marketplaces in sex-saturated pagan societies and faced the rage of the crowd to the point of beatings, stonings, and imprisonment.
This guy David Lynn is impressive in his calm and measured response to the hatred lobbed at him.
This is the kind of muscular, manful Christianity that we will need if we will ever be able to take back the culture and leave a stable future for our grandchildren. Catholics may have different ways of expressing faith in the public square — but no one can duck the responsibility or try to water the Truth down so it will be popular with the world. Thankfully, according to Quebec Archbishop and Primate of Canada Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, the New Evangelization is not meant to be a "mellowed down" Gospel.
Softening the message has nothing to do with the new evangelization, says the Primate of Canada, though some people have tried to make the Gospel “sweeter” and “easier,” telling people “it’s not as difficult as you think” or “you don’t have to convert completely.”
“That’s not what will attract people,” Lacroix said in an interview from Quebec City Nov. 14. “Our mission must be to preach the truth of the Gospel, and the full message of the Gospel.”
“The rest does not belong to us,” he said. “Some will convert and will follow Christ; others will reject us and persecute us for being different.”
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have continued making the case for the urgent need of a new evangelization over the past three decades.
“I told my brother bishops, don’t you think we’ve been in the emergency room long enough? “ Lacroix said. “Why are we so slow in reacting?
Instead, he says we continue to do what we have always done, while we have a world that is suffering, going farther away from the light, being taken over by other ways of thinking, dominated by economic interests that do not free people, by terrorism.
“We need really to get up to par to find ways to reach out and evangelize others,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it so long.”
The new evangelization refers to the mission of re-evangelizing people in societies like those in North America or Europe where Christianity has deep roots, but many people have only a superficial faith or have fallen away, he said. Evangelism refers to reaching out to peoples who have never heard the Gospel.
When he became Quebec archbishop last February, he said journalists asked him, “You’re a young man, a young bishop, how are you going to adapt the Gospel so it will be receivable by today’s modern men and women?”
“I don’t think it’s the Gospel we need to adapt,” he said. “It’s our lives that we need adapt to be faithful to the Gospel. “
Amen! I still do not feel called to stand on street corners handing out tracts, but I hope that, should God impress on my spirit some time that He wants me to, I hope I would obey Him.
And what will the New Evangelization look like inside the Ordinariates? Could the newly approved marriage rite be deemed hateful by the State because it so beautifully upholds the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman?