evangelization, the youth, and the Theology of the Body
Today I am giving two talks to the youth of Connecticut at their second annual "Youth Explosion" rally. I'm joined with the ever-talented Ike Ndolo Band, who I have never worked with before, but have run into in the ministry field many times.
I was asked to present to the teens in two thirty minute talks an overview of Pope John Paul II's famous Theology of the Body (TOB). Now, these talks spanned years and fill up a rather large book, and have produced book shelves full of commentaries trying to understand and apply his ideas.
...and I have two thirty-minute sessions to get it all in.
Evangelization always being my thing, I want to approach this talk from that perspective and not just give them a thorough check-list summary of TOB's main points. The catechesis needs to be there, but it needs to be framed through the lens of invitation, linked with a basic proclamation of the Gospel, and shown that this is the path to human happiness.
Evangelization takes into account the needs, perspectives, and obstacles to belief that any given audience may have. You need to understand the culture to which you are preaching the Gospel. It is arrogant and self-defeating to speak in a vacuum, thinking that "The truth itself will win the day."
Nope. Never happens that way. Truth needs love, and love is expressed through relationship. You need to respect and understand, so far as possible, the place your hearers are coming from.
Once you do that, you can begin to shape your talks as real moments of evangelization.
In talking about chastity from the position of evangelization, the TOB couldn't be better set up. It was developed from the beginning to address the philosophical presuppositions of Modernity, so there already is built in to it a serious pre-evangelization and evangelical content. All I had to do was craft it towards a teenage high school audience that implicitly and unconsciously accept these presuppositions.
Effective proclamations unfold the nature of human happiness. Sin makes you unhappy. It de-humanizes you. Jesus taught us the eightfold path to happiness, called the Beatitudes, which are placed at the beginning of his public ministry in Matthew's Gospel. When dealing with content that is mostly moral and not just doctrinal, one must connect the teaching to the reality of happiness. Human sexuality is the most crucial to tie into the real meaning of happiness because people often connect sexual pleasure, quality and quantity, with a general sense of happiness. All they need is to see the logic of the Gospel and how sin un-does the human heart.
Finally, the best thing we can do is establish the inherent connection between Christian doctrine or practice and the Paschal Mystery. The cross of Christ was the unifying point of His identity and His mission. Relate everything to the Passion in a sincere way, and you will find yourself doing evangelization.