Saturday, August 11, 2007

the terms 'gospel' and 'evangelize'

This outline is from Joseph Ratzinger's book Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism.

Section: "Evangelization, Catechesis, and Catechism"

1. The Significance of the Terms "Gospel" and "Evangelize" in the Light of the Bible and the Catechism.

Pre-Christian foundations
- Isaiah 58:6, 61:1 "glad tidings for the poor"
- the glad tidings of a "new ruler's accession to the throne" (39) - a new utopia (corresponding, by the way, to contemporary dreams of utopia).

a. Jesus's Gospel
"The first layer is Jesus' own proclamation of the gospel as transmitted by the evangelists" (40).
Drawing on Peter Stuhlmacher, "Jesus does not simply preach God's presence and power in general; God is present and near in a much more radical way. He is present in Jesus himself. The Son is the kingdom" (48).

The preferential option for the poor finds its deepest meaning in the context of Jesus's life. Jesus's life determines the content of that contested phrase.

Further on, Ratzinger says that "Jesus' proclamation was never mere preaching, mere words; it was 'sacramental,' in the sense that his words were and are inseparable from his 'I' - from his 'flesh.' His word opens up only in the context of the signs he performed, of his life and his death" (50).

b. The Gospel in the Gospels
"To call the four accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John 'Gospels' is precisely to express that Jesus himself, the entirety of his acting, teaching, living, rising and remaining with us is the 'gospel.' The four basic texts of the New Testament are not simply books but the written record of a proclamation" (51).

"To evangelize is to introduce men into a communion of life with him as well as into the fellowship of disciples, the community that journeys with him" (53).

The 'gospel' in the 'gospels' is the Church's once and continual proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus's person.

c. Paul's Gospel
Building on Rabbi Neusner's work... "This substitution of the name Jesus for the word Torah is Paul's 'gospel'; it is the content of his doctrine of justification" (54).

Paul's gospel is something unexpected, an innovative opening up of the heart of revelation. It seems to me that Paul's gospel is the first example of the following dynamic:
"The Holy Spirit may suddenly illuminate parts of revelation that have always been there, but have not been sufficiently reflected upon. The history of the Church confirms this. Before Saint Francis, no one had thought so deeply about the poverty of Christ. This poverty is not a secondary consideration but a new access to the center. Before Augustine, many had spoken of the love of God, but none did it in as penetrating a manner as he. Before Ignatius, no one had grasped Christ's obedience to the Father in quite so central a way" (Balthasar, Test Everything, 88-89).

Perhaps the power of Luther's insights is due to them being a new opening to the heart of revelation (Luther's gospel). To truly renew the Church, any such innovative insights should be ordered 'to the whole.' With Luther, this work has been addressed to some degree by St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Consider what Edward T. Oakes says about Thérèse in the article, "Are Protestants Heretics?"

St. Thérèse is a mystic with the voice of a poet, however. For a more theological engagement with Luther, the interested reader is directed to pages 37-41 of Balthasar's Truth is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism, which discusses Luther's "latent sub contrario."
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