In Matthew 28:19-20a, Jesus says to his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This mission was not limited to the first disciples. It is a mission that continues today. It is mission not just for clergy and parish staff. It is a mission we all share in.
The mission is not solely about academic theology. It is about sharing what the gospel means to us. As Fr. John Riccardo writes in his book, Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, (The Word Among Us Press, Frederick MD. 2020), “As we dive into the gospel together, our goal is not merely to learn something, but to experience something” (27).
As we read the Bible we must realize that the stories we read are not simply the stories of the people within those stories. What we read is our story, the story of God’s love for his people.
In this sense, Fr. John Riccardo writes, “Scripture doesn’t simply tell us what happened once, long ago, in a biblical era far, far away. Scripture tells us what always happens. Because what the devil did to Adam and Eve, he’s still trying to do to us today” (62).
The stories found in the Bible are from 2,000 year ago (New Testament) or more (Old Testament) ago. The world has changed drastically. For some this mistakenly means that the Bible is no longer relevant. The fact is the Bible is still relevant today. Fr. John Riccardo speaks of why it is still relevant, “This is why the message of the gospel is perpetually relevant: because we all have the same desires; we want infinite love. We want to have a sense of identity and to be accepted. We want to know that our lives have meaning” (19).
It is God who provides meaning to our lives.
We need to share our story with others. This is what it means for us to proclaim the gospel in everyday life. One word often used to describe this in theology books is “kerygma”. The word is a Greek word meaning “proclamation.” However, I have to admit that how this word is used in theology books has been difficult for me to grasp.
Thus, I am grateful for Fr. John Riccardo’s explanation in his book, Rescued. He articulates the four components of kerygma as “the goodness of creation, sin and its consequences, God’s response to our sin, and our response to what God has done for us.” More succinctly, he describes kerygma as “Created, Captured, Rescued, Response.” Let’s take a moment to look at each of these four components.
“The goodness of creation” (Created)
This is where we find meaning. The existence of the world we live in is not simply a matter of a physical creation as explained in the Big Bang Theory. There is a God. “He’s good. He is complete. He needs nothing outside himself” (Riccardo, 42). Yet God choses to create “out of nothing…out of love” (Riccardo, 42). God made male and female in his image. We see God in all that He has created.
“Sin and its consequences” (Captured)
All that God created is good. In his love, God gives us free will. If we are not free to choose, we are not free to love. Unfortunately, we do not always choose wisely. We sin, such has it been since the beginning with Adam and Eve. We face temptation from the devil. If we are win against temptation, we must admit that the devil is the great tempter. The devil likes it when we think he does not exist because then we let our guard down (Riccardo, 66). We are in battle against evil. Sin captures us and makes us slaves to our sins. We cannot win the battle on our own. Fortunately, we do not have to.
“God’s Response to Our Sin” (Rescued)
The good news is that God has a rescue plan. “God became man to fight, to go to war, to liberate an oppressed race, and to free prisoners” (Riccardo, 98). Jesus comes to rescue us from our sins. The instrument Jesus uses for our rescue is the Cross. We might feel stuck in our sins. We might feel that we cannot change. This is not true! As Fr. John Riccardo writes, “The whole principle of the Christian life is that you can change” (131). However, we cannot change on our own. We need God to recreate us (Riccardo, 132)
“Our Response to what God has done for us” (Response)
What is our response to God rescuing us? It begins with gratitude. Jesus did something wonderful when He gave his life for us. We need to be thankful. We need to live with gratitude. We give our lives to Jesus. We share the gospel, meaning we share our experience of God, his rescue of us (see Riccardo, 171).
I will end with one final quote from Fr. John Riccardo, “But remember Pope St. John Paul II and his statement that the kerygma is “the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.” Surrender is simply another word for “entrust,” and both words are another way to say “faith” (Riccardo, 153, quote from Pope St. John Paul II is from Catechesi Tradendae, 25).