My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Back in September I wrote a couple of columns providing an update on our efforts within the diocese to live as missionary disciples. Those columns were part of what will be a year-long series meant to highlight the progress we are making, while also calling all of us to grow in our friendship with Christ. In November and December, I will focus on our Discipleship Formation Seminars that have taken place over the past two years.
Building on the work of recent popes, Pope Francis has called us to be “missionary disciples” who witness to the Gospel in our homes, communities and the wider world. One of the church’s newest saints, Pope St. Paul VI, said the church “exists in order to evangelize,” that is to introduce others to our best friend, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This has always been our mission and it is now more necessary than ever that we embrace this mission. In particular, I think one of the lessons from the sexual abuse crisis is that all of us must find ways to continually deepen our friendship with Jesus Christ.
But this can be difficult and sometimes we need a little help to know how to meet Jesus and grow in friendship with him. That is why we began our process with a series of Discipleship Formation Seminars which take place over the course of some years.
Each of the Discipleship Formation Seminars moves us more deeply into the discipleship formation process by focusing on a specific theme:
- Discover Jesus
- Follow Jesus
- Worship Jesus
- Share Jesus
The first seminar is called “Discover Jesus,” which helps us to understand the challenges and opportunities in placing Jesus at the center of our lives, and how to present the core Gospel message anew in our homes, parishes, schools and communities.
To grow in the elements of discipleship formation, priests and other leaders in our parishes, schools and diocesan offices entered into “Disciples on the Way” by attending “Discover Jesus” seminars and by participating in a small faith-sharing process called “Alpha.” I will share more information about Alpha in an upcoming column.
Participants were challenged to discover (or rediscover) Jesus and consider what Jesus means for their life. The central focus of the seminar is the kerygma, a Greek word meaning to herald or proclaim. Specifically, the kerygma is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
The most basic form of the kerygma contains five elements:
Creation: God is love and has created me for relationship with him.
Fall: I have broken my relationship with God by my sin.
Redemption: Jesus restores my relationship with God through his life, death, resurrection.
Salvation: Jesus invites me to trust him, to turn from sin and to give my life to him.
Re-Creation: Jesus has poured the Holy Spirit into my heart to bring me to new life in his church and sends his church on mission so that others can experience that new life.
Though I have heard this message countless times throughout my life, I still am often overwhelmed when I think about the fact that God loves me so much that he gave his life for me. Each time I reflect on the kerygma, I learn something new about myself and I grow deeper in my relationship with God.
So I ask that you spend some time reflecting on these five elements and how they apply to your life. What does God want to reveal to you? Perhaps God wants you to feel how much you are loved. Or maybe God wants you to consider how you have fallen into some bad habits and is calling you to restore your trust in him. Maybe the Holy Spirit is calling you to share the impact that Christ has had on your life. I assure you that if you go to God in prayer with an open heart and mind, you will not be disappointed in what you find.
Over the coming years, we hope to form as many of our people who already come to our communities and prepare them as disciples for missionary outreach in their homes, families, neighborhoods, parishes and beyond.
Please pray for our efforts and join us in becoming a diocese of missionary disciples, on fire to share our love of Christ with the world!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.