by Ellie Nelson
Evangelization needs catechesis and catechesis needs evangelization. Neither is optional. They each have a complementary nature, and it is sometimes hard to determine when you are evangelizing or when you are catechizing; they are so integral. Our task to evangelize all people is a response to our desire for God.
No matter who we are or what our faith, every human person’s deepest longing is for God—and it is God who puts this desire within us. We should never grow tired of telling God’s love story, because the Church’s essential mission is to tell the greatest story ever told: the good news of salvation.
Tell God’s story
Our salvation story may sound something like this: God loves you. You are his beloved. God chose to be in a covenantal relationship with you that will never end. God made promises which require you to obey his commands. But, we have all missed the mark and disobeyed his commands. We can’t experience his love the way we should because of our faults and shortcomings.
But the story doesn’t end there. God loves you so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to die for you, to be the bridge that takes you from your sin to the love of God. Jesus is the only bridge.
When you repent of sin in your life and allow Jesus to come into your heart, you begin to experience the love of Jesus in a new way. This is called salvation.
It is the life in Jesus that begins now and will be for all eternity. Jesus is the answer to your brokenness. You could never live out that “new life in Christ” on your own, so Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help you, to teach you how to live the life of love. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that you can love others and be a disciple and apostle.
This is the kerygma, a Greek word which means to proclaim. This is the good news!
Laying the Foundation
Catechesis fulfills an essential role for the believer laying the foundation of the faith. It provides a basis for deepening a relationship with Jesus by striving to awaken and nourish the faith of the believer. It unpacks the initial calling and invites believers into the fullness of the Christian life.
“To catechize is ‘to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him.’ Catechesis aims at putting ‘people… in communion… with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 426).
Catechesis deepens the truth and value of the Christian message, helping us to discern the Gospel and finding ways to “live it out” in everyday living.
This first announcement or proclamation has the power to transform us from the inside out. It calls for the hearer to respond. In his or her own way and time, the person repents of sin and makes a conscious decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. Then the divine takes action. The person is moved by the Holy Spirit from within in such a way that he or she knows it. A change has occurred, and we allow the Lord Jesus to move us from within and transform us.
We must not assume that all of the baptized have been evangelized with the kerygma. Unfortunately, many Christians have learned about Jesus without truly knowing Christ. Christ is alive! He wants us to encounter him with open eyes and palpitating heart. Our risen savior does not merely want us to know about him. Rather, he wants us to know him—to enter into an intimate relationship with him; to have a personal encounter with him.
Called to Evangelize
Are we sharing our experiences of God with our families and with one another? Are we telling this great love story? Let’s pray that we have the opportunity to witness about his great love and mercy. When the opportunity arises, and with sensitivity, we can share the amazing story of God’s love: the good news of salvation. We can witness how our life was before we knew Jesus, and how it has changed since. We are all called to evangelize, and we must continue to proclaim the kerygma.
Evangelization calls us to faith, sparking a relationship with a loving and merciful God. The Holy Spirit lights a fire within our hearts, like those on the road to Emmaus. “Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32). Without evangelization, we may know a lot about Jesus and his Church but not develop a personal relationship with our Lord.
Catechesis empowers that fire of faith and stokes it with deep truth and knowledge of Jesus and his Church and guides us how to live out this life of faith. Without catechesis, we may have a personal relationship with Jesus, but have no understanding how to “live out” the Gospel message.
Ellie Nelson, MAPT is on the executive board for the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership serving as secretary. Ellie co-authored the Light of the World Retreat (lotwem.org) and is a DRE at Saint Margaret Mary in Algonquin, IL. She lives in Roscoe, IL, with her husband, Terry, and has 5 sons, one daughter-in-law, and one granddaughter.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, May 2016.
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