When Benedict XVI talks about his mission as pope, he often brings up issues like secularism, materialism, and respect for life. But he always says that the primary mission of the church is to take up the “new evangelization” that originated at Vatican II and was furthered by Pope John Paul II.
When it comes to issues like evangelization—issues that have eternal ramifications—we need to be clear that none of us can determine whether a person is going to heaven or hell. None of us should ever think it is our place to judge anyone in this manner. All Jesus told us is that those who believe in him, love one another, and care for the poor will be saved.
The predominant philosophy in the world states that if I try to stay out of trouble, if I try to follow some vague notion of goodness, then I am safe. Often, it means that I can do whatever I want, as long as I’m not hurting anyone else. If this self-oriented philosophy is accurate, then heaven is open to anyone who has even the slightest bit of faith, even if their lives don’t match up with the call of the gospel.
But what if this is the wrong premise? Suppose Jesus really does want us to try our best to live according to his commandments, even when it is difficult or demanding. Suppose he expects us to come to church each week and worship him. What if he really does want us to repent of our sins and fight against temptation, or serve the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, and the needy? If all these words from the Lord are true, then the worldly philosophy we described above is inadequate. And that means we should look at the world with a deep sense of urgency, echoing St. Paul’s words: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
So as you read this issue, I pray that you will take up the call to evangelize. Whether we know it or not, we all have what it takes to do the job. We have enough skills, and we have a sound enough grasp of the gospel message to get started. And whatever we may be lacking, we can make up with charm and love. Best of all, we have the Holy Spirit. We really can win people to Jesus!
God wants everyone to go to heaven, and he calls us to be his messengers. It is a high calling—and an urgent one. If each one of us can reach out to one person a year and bring them to the Lord, the whole world could be changed and the church would be renewed. So let’s all tell the Lord, “Here I am! Send me!” May God bless you.