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 in an age when Catholicism is waning in many places.
In this three-part series, I’m explaining what the kerygma is and why it’s important. In the first two installments, I provided a basic overview of the kerygma, identifying seven essential components: the (1) salvific (2) life, (3) death, and (4) resurrection of (5) Jesus of Nazareth, who is both (6) Christ and (7) Lord. Having already addressed components 1-4 in the first two installments, in this final installment I will focus on the last three components: that the kergyma is about Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Jesus: “God Saves”
In the interests of space, I will briefly touch on the importance of Jesus’ proper name before addressing the significance of his titles as Christ and Lord. To do so, let’s consider the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
CCC 430 offers a commentary on the meaning of “Jesus” that is both compact and substantial, noting first the etymology of the name—it means “God saves”—and then offering this remark regarding the name: it “expresses both his identity and his mission.” “Jesus”—“God Saves”—is both who Jesus is and what he does. He, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, is God himself, and in the Incarnation, he has taken on human nature in order to save us. “Jesus”: it is both who he is and what he came to do.
Christ: the Long-Awaited Messiah
Having briefly addressed Jesus’ proper name, let us now turn to what many treat as Jesus’ last name: Christ.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is regularly referred to Jesus Christ. And when we pray, we often refer to him in this way. But despite what people sometimes presume without thinking about it much, Christ isn’t his last name . . . instead, it is a title. In effect, to say “Jesus Christ” means to say—to proclaim—that Jesus is the Christ. But what does that mean?
First, let’s once again consider the etymology: the word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, which itself is a translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, or as we render it in English, Messiah. That word—Mashiach, Messiah—means Anointed One.
This idea of the Anointed One was an ancient one for the people of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, people who were consecrated to God for a mission that He gave were anointed in his name. That included kings, priests, and prophets. A classic example of this is found in the story of David.