Our duty to proclaim Jesus

Today’s Gospel Reading at Mass (Mt 10:26-33) is a segment of the instructions which Jesus gave to His Apostles (ref Mt 10:1,5) just prior to sending them out on their first missionary expedition.  It concludes with Mt 10:32-33

So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

What does Jesus mean by “acknowledge me”?  CCC n. 1816 teaches us (quoting these exact verses) (emboldened text is my emphasis added):

The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) n. 120, Pope Francis describes our duty to acknowledge Jesus before others (emboldened text is my emphasis added):

In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”….So what are we waiting for?

Any parish that is not engaging in a substantial amount of evangelization, and whose parishoners themselves are not “actively engaged in evangelization” is failing to heed the demand of Jesus and His Church echoed by Pope Francis.  On the vigil of Pentecost (June 3rd), Abp Vigneron inaugurated his extraordinarily innovative plan — entitled Unleash the Gospel — to have each parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit become a parish of missionary disciples.

For the latest teaching of the US Bishops on being missionary disciples, you can read this booklet that they published last month.

Why do we go to Mass?

During the Consecration at Mass, I always try to focus my gaze upon the priest at the altar, and especially on the newly-consecrated Body and Blood of Our Lord during the elevations.  Occasionally my line-of-sight will include someone who seems to be inattentive.  I’ve even seen people conversing during the Consecration.  The thought “I wonder if they understand why they are here at Mass?” will pass quickly through my mind.

Based on some conversations I’ve had, many Catholics nowadays think that the primary purpose of coming to Mass (beyond fulfilling the Sunday obligation, and avoiding mortal sin) is to gather with the parish community in order to celebrate our life together.

On his recent trip to the Holy Land, in his homily at the Mass in the Upper Room, Pope Francis touched a bit on why we go to Mass:

“In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering God our lives, our joys, and our sorrows…offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.”

Here’s how I would answer if someone asked me why I go to Mass:

  • To give thanks (Eucharist) to God by offering and worship, and express my love to Him
  • To offer Jesus to the Father
  • To offer myself and all aspects of my life, in union with Jesus and my brethren, to the Father
  • To hear God’s word in Sacred Scripture (and be changed by it, through the power of the Holy Spirit)
  • To have the Paschal sacrifice of Jesus re-presented to me
  • To worthily receive the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion (and be changed by Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit)
  • To unite myself with the unceasing heavenly liturgy, and remember with hope that Jesus will come again in glory at the end of history
  • To be sent forth (Ite, missa est) to proclaim by my life and words the love I have received, that the world might be imbued with Christian values

How would you answer the question??

The irreplaceable importance of kerygma

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of the kerygma, and clearly declares that the top priority of catechists needs to be the focused and repeated communication of the kerygma:

164. In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the centre of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. The kerygma is trinitarian. The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy. On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.  For this reason too, “the priest – like every other member of the Church – ought to grow in awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized”.

165. We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart. The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical. All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes which foster openness to the message: approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.

As a supplement to Pope Francis’ description of the kerygma, Msgr Charles Pope explains it well in this article and this article.