BLEVINS: Shout with Lenten joy!

March 10, 2020

What comes to mind when you think of Lent? Prayer? Fasting? Giving something up?

You might reserve the idea of “joy” more to the seasons of Christmas and Easter; however, you may not have considered the great proclamation of the Kerygma that we actually live during our Church’s Lenten season.

What is the Kerygma? Derived from the Greek, it means proclamation, announcement or preaching. Specifically, it is the message the disciples of Jesus Christ preached following the Pentecost event when they finally realized what was meant to “go out to the ends of the earth.”

This Kerygma can be summarized in five points:

1. God loves me unconditionally.
2. My relationship with God is broken by sin.
3. Jesus restores my relationship with God through His life, death and resurrection.
4. Jesus invites me to give my life to Him.
5. Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit to bring me to new life in His Church.

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis tells us: “On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation (Kerygma) must ring 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.’” (#164)

All through Lent we travel with Jesus as He is tempted in the desert, is transfigured on the mountain, speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well, opens the eyes of the blind, raises Lazarus, and endures His passion and death. Holy Week, with its culmination in the Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil — leads us to His resurrection on Easter Sunday. We are living the Kerygma! So what is so joyful about it? God loves us! He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to redeem us so that we can be brought to eternal life when we leave our earthly existence.

During this Lenten season, keep repeating to yourself: “God loves ME!” How would we change if we truly believed that statement with our whole heart without any “buts,” such as God loves me BUT he probably wouldn’t if He knew the things I’ve done or God may love me BUT I don’t even think He cares about me right now? In today’s world, we need to hear this message of God’s unconditional love... again and again and again.

But remember: this message is only the first point summarized above in the proclamation of the Kerygma. If we truly believe that God loves us no matter what, how might our outlook on our life change? In a world that keeps telling us we are not enough — we are not pretty or handsome enough, we are too fat, we are too thin, we struggle with a physical or cognitive disability, our family is not ideal, our marriage is not fruitful — God knows we are enough just as we are! HE created us in His image and likeness and so we are wonderfully made.

Furthermore, our children and grandchildren really need to hear that God loves them. In a social media world that deflates their self-image and worth, where a derogatory text can spread like wildfire throughout their school, where they are so quickly labeled as being one thing or another, then put down for whatever group they are assigned, they need to know that God loves them just as they are.

They need good adult witnesses who can share with them this message by telling their story of how God (Jesus) has made a difference in their lives. We need to be witnesses of the Kerygma to our family, friends and co-workers.

This first proclamation doesn’t happen just once.

As we go through life and all the challenges, conflicts and multiple experiences that make us feel that God has abandoned us, we need to hear once again that God loves us.

He loves us in spite of our messiness, and if we can give over our life to His divine will and truly believe that Jesus Christ can restore us, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit that renews our life in Him and in His Church. Can you imagine how much our world would be different if we could obliterate all the negativity with the conversion that would result from the internalization of this Kerygmatic message?

As you take part in the Stations of the Cross this Lent or journey with Christ through His passion, remember you are journeying through the Kerygma and the message that we are all deeply loved... YOU are deeply loved. Only if we accept that love in our lives, we will know unending joy.

Let the joy of this Lenten season and the promise of the resurrection and everlasting life in Christ lead you to be a true disciple who shares the Kerygma message with others.

Julie Blevins is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.