The New Evangelization began with a noble purpose. Bishops, priests, laity were all called to join together in a great project “to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel”.
This three step process was well-conceived: before one goes out to proclaim the Good News, one must first believe fervently in what one is proclaiming; in order to believe fervently in what one proclaims, one must first deepen one’s faith. Since proclaiming and believing depend heartily upon deepening, it is with deepening that this promising project should have started (and remained).
The problem with deepening, however, is that it takes a long time and much effort. Anyone who has ever done any digging knows that the deeper one goes the harder the soil becomes. Then there are the stones one comes up against. These need to be removed in order to go deeper; and if a stone is big, then one needs not only to deepen but to widen.
And so it goes in the spiritual life. Those who go deep meet with many challenges requiring them to broaden as they deepen. Further, since deepening the faith of one person requires part or all of a lifetime, the deepening of faith for an entire people will take a generation. God himself discovered this with the Israelites in the desert (Dt 1:35).
If only the New Evangelizers had come equipped with the patience of God. But they didn’t. Many have succumbed to the convenience and expediency of the people and the age. Catchy videos, social media, and a plethora of blogs and books which barely break the surface became their spades of choice; while apologetics, homiletics, catechesis, liturgy and daily presence and diligence, the instruments truly needed to deepen the faith, were seen as too cumbersome for a Church pursued hard by bold secularization. Evangelization – too difficult to pursue even in its first stage – was replaced by invitation: just welcome everyone back and we’ll sort it all out later.
Many in the Church were glad and relieved to replace evangelization with invitation. But they didn’t do their research or they would have discovered that this way doesn’t even work for God (Mt 22: 1-14).
In order to form his Twelve Apostles, Jesus poured his new teaching into new wineskins (Mk 2:22), that is, into hearts willing to accept His Passion on the Cross. Initially, they did not understand this new way (Mk 9:32) and some first refused to believe it (Mt 16:22). So Jesus kept on deepening their understanding and strengthening their belief before sending them out to proclaim the gospel of His redemptive suffering (i.e. a three step plan).
All this preparation and formation by Jesus centered on one particular aim: to ready the Apostles to take up their crosses and follow Him and thus serve as an example for the flock to do the same.
Jesus came equipped for a full evangelization, so while deepening the faith of his Apostles He moved on to step two proclaiming, “believe in the Gospel”, while linking this directly with repentance (Mk 1:15). And as far as repentance goes… well… everyone receives an invitation to that.