Preaching the Kerygma of Jesus Christ

As Father Cantalamessa continues his reflections with the bishops regarding the “new way of thinking” that the Lord wishes to impart upon us, he offered some interesting insights regarding the gift of preaching. One of those insights is so fundamental and important that it raises a series of questions that every Christian must answer every day of his or her life.

Father Raniero began his talk by highlighting an important distinction found in the New Testament when the Scriptures speak of the earliest preaching of the apostles. He noted that when the apostles preached, they did two complementary things. First, they offered a basic kerygma of faith, which means that they proclaimed the fundamental truth of their own belief in the person of Jesus. By doing so, they offered a basic choice to their hearers, inviting them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Messiah. Second, they followed the kerygma by offering didache, which means “teachings” about Jesus. They spoke of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom, His parables and miracles. This didache was to nurture the initial response of faith that the kerygma was meant to raise in their hearers. However, the didache always followed the kerygmatic offer to believe. Otherwise, the didache could easily be reduced to laws, nice teaching, an interesting way of living or another philosophy.

It seems to me that much of our failed efforts in evangelization are due to the fact that we are not preaching the kerygma of Christ. Whether it is in the pulpit or by our daily witness, we are not answering the question posed by Jesus to the apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” We do not clearly and without hesitation proclaim our faith that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, my Messiah and God! Further, we do not ask those around us to reflect upon this same question and to make a choice for or against Him.

How many Christians know the didache and do not embrace the kerygma of Christ? How many times have we shaped Jesus to fit our lives rather than have Him rule our lives? How often have we tamed the message of the Gospel by making it an intellectual, theological construct that entertains our intellectual curiosity, while at the same time robbing the Gospel of its ability to reveal our sinful self-righteousness, anger and belief that we are better than those “fallen away”? How often have we forgotten the power of the kerygma?

It is time to start preaching the kerygma of Jesus Christ. It is time to proclaim without hesitation that He is the Savior whose Death and Resurrection has set us free. He is the Lord of the living and the dead, the only Savior the world will ever know, whose desires our complete submission to His Divine Will, molding us into vessels of His love and mercy. For without embracing the kerygma, learning only the didache may have little eternal results.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos!