The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

The Kerygma: What It Is and Why It Matters, Part I

Authored by Dr. Chris Burgwald in Issue #6.2 of Catechetical Review
A Proclamation of Salvation Introduction Over the last several decades, theologians who focus on evangelization in general, and the moment of catechesis within it in particular, have given considerable thought and attention to the topic of the kerygma, and rightly so. The kerygma can be aptly understood to be the summary of the Gospel; and, as such, it is always deserving of closer study, especially so in an age when Catholicism is waning in many places. In this three-part series, I’ll explain what the kerygma is and why it’s important. In this first installment, I’ll provide a basic overview of the kerygma, examine its significance today, and offer a closer look at one of its components more relevant to the work of catechesis in our time. The Importance of the Kerygma Let’s first look at the importance of the kerygma in the work of evangelization generally, and catechesis particularly. Understanding the kerygma is essential for at least two reasons. First, the question, “What is the Good News of Jesus Christ?” is obviously an important one. In the Gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus’ very first words are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15). His first directions are to repent of our sins and to believe in the Good News, the Gospel. Clearly this is a matter of supreme importance; and, therefore, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of the nature of the Gospel. The second reason that the kerygma is an essential topic is closely related to the first. Considering how important the Gospel is to our Christian faith and to our life as his disciples, studies have shown that far too many Christians (including many Catholics) do not really know what the Gospel is. In fact, it could be fairly argued that not only are many believers ignorant of the actual content of the Gospels, they probably don’t even see it as either Good or as News. And if that’s true of Catholics and other Christians, how much more true must it be of the peoples of the world, all of whom Jesus told us to make disciples? Understanding the kerygma, the core content of the Gospel, is essential then: first, because of its centrality to Christianity; and second, because of how little it is actually known in the world today, among Catholics, other Christians, and the general populace.

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