How do you transform a parish? How do you transform the Catholic Church? It has been proposed that three essential principles are necessary. These three principles form something new. They offer us a way in which God can heal and transform the Church. Once that is done, the Church is equipped for the work God has for us. As Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron has put it, “To get His world back.” Let’s look at these principles:
First Principle: Reacquire a Biblical Worldview
To be a disciple of Jesus is to see everything differently. To do requires seeing the world through a biblical lens. The Bible gives us answers to the big questions in life. Here are some examples:
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
- Why does everything seem so messed up?
- What has God done about it?
- What should my response be to God in the midst of all this?
The answers to these four questions are at the heart of the extraordinary story that is known as “The Gospel.” St. Paul tells us, “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). But for the Gospel to have any effect, there is a desperate need in the Church, and beyond, to know “the story.” And the story is what the Church calls the kerygma (Greek for “proclamation”).
St. John Paul II wrote a definition of the kerygma:
It is “initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and is brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.”
How many Catholics in the pews would honestly tell you they have been “overwhelmed” by the Gospel? How many have decided to “entrust” themselves to Jesus in faith after hearing this story? Probably few. One of the reasons for this is that most Catholics have never heard the Gospel. They hear parts, to be sure. How often do Catholics hear the kerygma preached in a compelling way that they radically reorient their lives around God?
We believe the Gospel can be summed up in four words: created, captured, rescued, and response:
- Why is there something rather than nothing? Because God in His infinite love freely and without any effort created everything. The highlight of creation is the human person. God made man and woman in His image and likeness and destined them to partake of His divine nature.
- Why does everything seem so messed up? Because one of God’s creatures—out of envy—rebelled against God. Lucifer went to war against the creature God loves the most. The Devil deceived our first parents. The consequence of this deception was not simply that we were separated from God. We have been captured. The rebellion of Adam and Eve unknowingly sold our race into slavery to powers we cannot compete against – Satan, Sin, and Death. There is nothing we can do on our own to escape from this slavery.
- What has God done about this? Out of His unbounded love for us, the eternal Son of God became man to go to war against these powers. He defeated them by His passion, death, and resurrection from the dead. In this way Jesus Christ rescued us.
- What should my response be to God in the midst of all this? First, by surrendering our lives in faith to the God who has proven His great love for us in words but above all in deeds. Our response needs to be getting about the work of both proclaiming this extraordinary, life-changing news. We are called to be active agents of God’s re-creation. Our task it building for the kingdom, until Jesus returns in glory and finally makes all things new.
The kerygma, the big questions listed above, and the answers to these questions are found in the Sacred Scriptures. They are part of the “biblical worldview” or the First Principle.
We will look at the Second Principle next week.