The Epiphany and Evangelization | Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas | Catholic World Report
Evangelization is not a work of the past; nor is it the responsibility of a chosen few; it is the obligation and privilege of every baptized Christian at all times and in all places.
“Nations shall walk by your light.” (Isa 60:3)
“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” (Responsorial Psalm, The Epiphany of the Lord)
“The Gentiles are now co-heirs with the Jews, members of the same body and sharers of the promise through the preaching of the Gospel.” (Eph 3:6)
“. . . Magi from the east arrived one day. . . to pay him homage.” (Matt 2:1, 2)
As should be obvious by now, the Solemnity of the Epiphany (celebrated in the Extraordinary Form and in all the Eastern Churches on January 6 and on January 8 in the United States this year in the Ordinary Form) is the day for the Gentiles at the Crib. In some sense, one can say that the Solemnity's Gospel reading presents the entire Gospel in miniature, in terms of the reception of the message by different audiences. Mary and Joseph represent believing Jews; Herod, stiff-necked or faithless Jews; the wise men, Gentiles with open minds and open hearts. A charming, ancient legend says that these wise men actually became the first Christian missionaries, with their efforts meeting both success and failure as they encountered both belief and unbelief among the Gentiles to whom they preached.
Surely, the point of this celebration is that “the Gentiles are now co-heirs with the Jews,” but how does this happen? St. Paul gives the answer: “Through the preaching of the Gospel.” If the barrier between Jew and Gentile is to be broken down, it will happen as both are brought into contact with the saving truth of Jesus Christ. That occurs through the process of evangelization, the sharing of the Good News, the Gospel. Today’s solemnity, then, would have us reflect on the awesome task of evangelizing the world. Pope John Paul symbolized that endeavor in a beautiful and powerful manner by consecrating on this day new bishops from around the world, for through their work of teaching, governing and sanctifying, the Gospel takes hold in new places among new peoples, who are made “members of the same body and sharers of the promise.”
Therefore, a fundamental concern of the Church in every age must be the spread of the Gospel. For that very reason, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in their document on missionary activity, Ad Gentes (appropriately enough), taught: “The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary” [n. 2]. This truth was highlighted some years later in Pope Paul VI’s landmark exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi. It is important to keep that fact in sharp focus because it is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Catholicism. Judaism, for instance, has no interest as such in making converts; they will not be turned away, to be sure, but it is not a major thrust of that religious tradition. Nor is it so for the various Eastern religions, like Buddhism or Shintoism or Taoism. What makes us different? Nothing less than taking Christ at His word in His great commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19f).
And from Epiphany’s Magi to the modern missionaries, the Gospel has been shared and taken root on every continent.