A new Pentecost for the new evangelization

May 14, 2013

HOUSTON — During his apostolic journey to the United States in 2008, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called for “a new Pentecost for the Church in America.” 

If Pentecost is the moment of empowering disciples for the task of evangelization, then this call for a new Pentecost flows directly into the challenge to take up the task of the new evangelization.

Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church because it is the day the members of Christ’s Church were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to boldly proclaim the Gospel. 

According to the Acts of the Apostles, 3,000 were baptized on that first Pentecost. From that day forward, the followers of Jesus began to fulfill the command to make disciples of all nations, through baptism and apostolic work.

The new evangelization, a term coined by Pope John Paul II, calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel — to be evangelized, and then go forth to evangelize. 

“Evangelization is about relationships,” said Father Reginald Samuels, pastor of St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Deer Park. “The Holy Spirit is the power behind relationships,” he added, “not just with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, but to the world that He created.”

In a special way, the new evangelization is focused on “re-proposing” the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith or fallen away from the Church. Indeed, the new evangelization invites all Catholics to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.

“There is nothing more exciting than proclaiming how much God loves us, and how His love is there for everyone,” Father Samuels said.
The new evangelization and the idea of a new Pentecost is not a new concept. 

Pope John XXIII prayed at the eve of the Second Vatican Council for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church “as by a new Pentecost.” Pope Paul VI wrote of the need for a new Pentecost that would usher in a “new period of evangelization,” which would take into account the “new order of things,” the “new atheism,” and the “new characteristics” of the new world we are living in.

The traditional images of Pentecost often depict the tongues of fire descending upon the apostles, flames which echo the fire they felt in their hearts and souls to proclaim the Gospel message with zeal and courage. “When the Church loses courage, the Church enters into a ‘lukewarm’ atmosphere,” said Pope Francis in a recent homily. 

“The lukewarm, lukewarm Christians, without courage... that hurts the Church so much, because this tepid atmosphere draws you inside, and problems arise among us; we no longer have the horizon, or courage to pray towards heaven, or the courage to proclaim the Gospel.”

As such, our celebration of Pentecost this year is just as relevant for us today as it was for those first disciples. We are called to create what Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have called a “culture of Pentecost.”

“I make sure that I tell my congregation every chance that I get,” Father Reginald said. “It is not just enough for us to come to Church to seek to be blessed, we should always seek the opportunity to be a blessing to others, then we are truly living the life in which God calls us to live, and loving the way God calls us to love.”

Pentecost Sunday will be celebrated this year on May 19.