Bishop Hying

If you had five minutes to speak about your love of Christ, what would you say about your belief?

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on December 2, 2018


      Kerygma is the Anglicized version of an ancient Greek word, which means “preaching.” and is related to the Greek verb, which means to “cry or proclaim as a herald.” For us as Christians, the kerygma is the transformative proclamation of the essential Good News of Jesus Christ, the preaching of the Word, the announcement that Jesus is Lord, the advent of the Kingdom of God. 

      As we begin Advent, the Church draws our attention to the prophetic figure of John the Baptist, this radical voice in the wilderness calling everyone to sincere repentance and an attentive vigilance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. 

      The kerygma also reminds us of other key Scriptural figures - Peter standing up in the streets of Jerusalem on the feast of Pentecost to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus for the first time; Paul preaching the meaning of faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah, and his letters as thoughtfully theological follow-ups to the kerygma. 

      The task of every vocation in the Church, from those in Holy Orders to the religious to the lay faithful, is to proclaim the Gospel. This mission is the fundamental purpose of the Body of Christ.

      Advent is a significant moment for us to go back to the basics of our faith. Who is Jesus for us? How have we experienced him? How do I grow in my relationship with the Lord? How do I better proclaim the love, mercy and forgiveness that I have experienced flowing from his merciful heart? 

      A simple way to understand the kerygma is to imagine the content of your Christian elevator speech.  If you were with someone who has never heard of Jesus Christ, or who has no religious faith, and you have five minutes to speak about your own belief, what would you say? What fundamentals constitute the absolute essence of Christianity and our convictions about Jesus? How do we both express and summarize the most significant message ever shared?

      Many theologians today see four components in the kerygma. 

      1) God loves you in a radical, unconditional and life-changing way through the incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      2) The effects of sin and death, both in our personal lives and the entire human race, have pushed us into a state of alienation and brokenness.

      3) Never giving up on us, Jesus Christ offers us new life through the mercy and forgiveness flowing from the Paschal Mystery.

      4) When we accept the Lord’s gracious offer, we become a new creation and are called to witness the love and truth of Christ to others as missionary disciples. 

      In these weeks of Advent, I want to reflect deeper on each of these four components of our Christian faith as we prepare to welcome the Lord into our lives with renewed hearts and joyful spirits.

      To proclaim that God loves us always feels like a tired cliché, so often have we heard it. Yet, have we really absorbed it? Do we not all painfully struggle to accept God’s unconditional love in our hearts and truly feel the enormity of the divine grace and mercy? We all feel unworthy, broken, sinful. How could God actually love me and know me by name? 

      Moving from the love of God as a beautiful idea to an experienced reality requires a lifetime of conversion. For some of us, dramatic moments where God broke into our lives with fire and power stand as signposts along our pilgrim way. For others, the unveiling of God’s love was more gradual and quiet, a peaceful unfolding of evolving grace and growing intimacy with the Divine Mystery.

      Parishioners who do Cursillo or Christ Renews His parish weekends, folks who go on an extended retreat, seekers who find a mentor who walks them through the Bible, individuals who have experienced a powerful moment of forgiveness or reconciliation will all say that these encounters made God real for them. They come back to their regular lives all charged up, animated, moved and enlivened. 

      They cease looking at the practice of religion as an obligatory burden, but now as a spiritual adventure, their love response to the One who loves them in a radical and irrevocable way. The presence and mercy of Christ is no longer an ethereal concept, but rather a specific and practical reality which begins to form and influence everything they say, do and think. 

      They have begun to fall in love with God!

      As we move through this first week of Advent, I invite you to enter deeply into prayer and meditate on the Scriptures. In the index of your Bible, you should be able to find an entry which lists all of the passages relating to the love and mercy of God. Read some of them and ponder the great love God has for you.  Recall the key moments in your life when you truly felt the merciful presence of God. 

      Thank the Lord for this gracious gift. Speak of your love to him in your own words. Contemplate an image of the Sacred Heart or the Divine Mercy. Imagine the Lord holding you, embracing you, healing you. Feel the peace and joy which flow from this encounter.

      Share with someone in your life an experience of God’s love which changed you. Speak to someone who is sorrowing or suffering with your own tender words of mercy. Let the fire of the Divine Presence flow through you into the hearts and minds of others in ways that are authentic, natural and sincere.

      These days of Advent, which contain the liturgical Scripture passages filled with hope and expectation, the growing darkness and cold around us and the advancing beauty of Christmas are custom-made for reflection on the beautiful love of God. 

      I am praying for you and ask your prayers for me, as we advance together into this consoling, saving and confounding Mystery who is also a Person, the One who loves us and gave himself for us - Jesus Christ, the Lord and Messiah!


       + Donald J. Hying


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