Evangelization is a broad and complex concept. It contains various elements that need to be distinguished. Evangelization should be understood as any activity, both of Jesus Christ and of the Church. Every action of the Church is evangelization, which consists in proclaiming, celebrating and living the mystery of salvation.
These three dimensions are interconnected. They come together and complement each other. Each one is a necessary complement to the other two. In the process of communicating the Good News, two successive, mutually complementary and interdependent stages must be clearly distinguished:
1) the first proclamation of the Good News: kerygma – evangelization
2) gradual teaching of faith: catechesis – catechesis.
It is a great pastoral mistake to catechize people before evangelizing them. The emphasis is first on teaching and catechizing the faithful, communicating to them the various truths of the Church’s faith, “wise” Catholics are formed – forgetting, however, the fundamental principle that Jesus demanded of Nicodemus, “first you need to be born again!” For life to grow, you must be born! It is impossible to grow in faith if you have not been born to it before.
The aim of the kerygma – evangelization is precisely to experience a new life through faith and conversion by presenting Jesus Christ who died, risen and glorified. And also – to experience the Living Jesus as personal Savior, as Lord of all life and as the Messiah who communicates the Holy Spirit to transform our world through the power of love.
Unfortunately, however, many times in the evangelization of the People of God it was assumed that all the steps of initial, kerygmatic preaching had been completed. Therefore, truths, God’s laws and dogmas are preached above all to those who have never known Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, have not confessed Him as the Lord of their entire lives, and have not experienced Him as the Messiah.
Some Native American cultures of Mexico had very peculiar customs and beliefs. For example, food was placed in the graves so that the deceased would not be hungry. The arrival of the Gospel ended this strange custom. Perhaps evangelizers from 500 years ago would make fun of us because we are doing the same thing: instead of evangelizing, we put abundant, wonderful food of Christian doctrine and morality next to a corpse in which there is no life of Jesus. We just feed the dead!
What is first and foremost an experience of a new life cannot be replaced by catechesis, piety and morality. For catechesis to bear abundant fruit, it must be in the right place: always after the kerygmatic message.