One of the best-known encapsulations of the new evangelisation is the phrase used by Blessed John Paul II in 1983 who spoke of the need “not of re-evangelisation, but rather of a new evangelisation; new in its ardour, methods and expression”. The call is both evocative and challenging, and it is clearly calling for a creative response from the Church on a number of levels.
In this editorial I would like to look just at the first of these elements, the call to discover a “new ardour”. It is the first point in John Paul’s list and it clearly addresses the will and the need for a renewal of love. “New ardour” calls to mind, perhaps, the words that the Lord speaks against the Church in Ephesus: ‘I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love that you had at first.’ (Rev 2:4) The Church in Ephesus possessed many virtues (“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance”), but the transmission of the Christian faith requires more than this. It needs more than our good works and more than a capacity to bear hardship and withstand difficulties. All of this is absolutely necessary, but it does not capture the essence of the Christian faith, which is to receive and respond gladly to the overwhelming love of the Father, manifested in the Son and proved by the gift of his life and death for us. Without this as the clear centre of our vision we “fall back into fear” and a “spirit of slavery”, as St Paul put it in his Letter to the Romans (8:15). But when we are possessed by a new ardour we cry out in joy, through the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts, “Abba! Father!”.