The word kerygma is a Greek word that refers to the first or primary proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kerygma is what we lead with—the core message—when proclaiming the Gospel. To be kerygmatic, then, is to effectively proclaim the Gospel in a way that consistently highlights and reinforces the core message of the Gospel.
And what is that core message?
Namely, that in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we find new life, also referred to as salvation, fullness of life, and eternal life. There is no one way to articulate the kerygma. However, the message must be a brief, bold, to-the-point, inspiring proclamation of Jesus Christ designed to transform hearts and minds. A good example of the kerygma is the oft-quoted passage: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
The word kerygma is not new and can be traced to the life of the early Church. However, in recent years, the importance of the kerygma in the life of the Church—especially in faith formation—has taken on a more prominent and urgent role as we seek ways to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ more effectively to an increasingly secular world. We can no longer assume that people know who Jesus is and know why they should follow him; we need to “make our case.” We need to introduce people to Jesus Christ and explain how we ourselves have been transformed by a relationship with Christ and his Church.
But what does all of this have to do with the average Catholic, who is not in a formal role of teaching the Gospel to others? Well, we all called to be kerygmatic in our daily living and can do this by:
- paying more attention to our relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church and making that relationship central to our lives.
- reflecting on how our relationship with Jesus has transformed us. In other words, how are we experiencing new life because of our relationship with Jesus?
- finding ways (and appropriate times) to:
- express to others that we are “broken” but find healing in God, specifically in Jesus.
- express our trust in Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges.
- explain to others what difference Jesus has made in our lives.
- invite others to consider trusting Jesus.
To be kerygmatic does not mean that we walk around constantly talking about Jesus and asking people if they are saved. It simply means that we find the appropriate times and ways to express that Jesus has made a difference in our lives.
In today’s world, one of the most effective ways we can do this is via social media. For example, we can share a hardship that we are dealing with, ask for prayers, and express our trust in Jesus. Or, we can simply give thanks to God for a blessing in our life. Likewise, we can invite those who post about challenges they are facing to place their trust in God, while assuring them of our prayers and, if appropriate, sharing how God helped us through a similar situation. Finally, we might consider posting after going to Sunday Mass and expressing how much we need that experience. This isn’t to boast about church attendance, but it is an opportunity to express what participating in Mass does for us: comforts, heals, challenges, invites growth, restores, or renews.
The call to be kerygmatic is not reserved for ministry professionals. It is directed to all of the baptized and is one of the ways that we live out our Baptism as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are on a mission to spread his Good News to all nations!