In response to a 2019 Pew Study that showed only 30 percent of Catholics believe in the Real Presence, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is launching a three-year long Eucharistic Revival, which starts on the Feast of Corpus Christi June 19.
The first pillar of the Revival is: Foster encounters with Jesus through kerygmatic proclamation and experiences of Eucharistic devotion. This pillar leads to the questions: What is the kerygma and what does it have to do with the Eucharist?
The kerygma is the Gospel as proclaimed by Jesus. The word means “proclamation” in Greek. In a nutshell, it is as follows: We are sinners. Because we are sinners, we will die an eternal death unless we are saved. Jesus died for our sins to save us from eternal death. If we repent and give our lives to Him, we will receive eternal life. Are you ready to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
The bookends of the kerygma are repentance and turning to Jesus to live your life for Him. This is the foundation for evangelization. It has provided the impetus for centuries of missionary work, the conversion of civilizations, and the worldwide spread of Christianity. The kerygma is Christianity’s turnkey standard operating procedure for expanding the Church, and it has worked quite well since Jesus used it. There’s no need to change it now.
The kerygma is not well-known today. For whatever reason, the Catholic Church is shying away from the bluntness of this message, favoring instead “dialogue” and ecumenism. This has contributed to confusion about what the Gospel message really is.
To remedy this, or perhaps evade it – or maybe a combination of the two – we’ve muddled the straightforward message of the kerygma by replacing it with catechesis. But trying to catechize before evangelizing is like trying to teach someone something they have no desire to learn.
“There is general imbalance in the Church (on the diocesan and parochial levels), which unfortunately tends to place a much greater emphasis on catechesis at the expense of initial proclamation, ” said Catholic apologist and speaker Hector Molina, adding, “Unfortunately, for many Catholics the kerygma remains an enigma.”
“All forms of missionary activity are directed to this proclamation,” said Pope St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio, regarding the kerygma. He says the kerygma “reveals and gives access to the mystery hidden for ages and made known in Christ (cf. Eph 3:3-9; Col 1:25-29), the mystery which lies at the heart of the Church’s mission and life, as the hinge on which all evangelization turns.”
But how do you really help someone believe in the Gospel through the kerygma? You really have to dig deep, to get to know them as a person. This is what recent popes really mean by “encounter” being at the center of successful evangelization.
This is where the Eucharist comes in. The kerygma is about encountering others, and the Eucharist is about encountering Jesus. It is the means by which we connect people with Jesus because the Eucharist is Jesus himself. Without the Eucharist, there is no “encounter” in evangelization because there is no Jesus. The Gospel is not about encountering one another. It’s about encountering the Lord. Only once we encounter Him can we encounter Him through others.
We can encounter Jesus in the Eucharist not only through Communion, but also in Eucharistic Adoration. Speaking about the new documentary on the Eucharist, called Alive, Lucia Gonzales, founder of Bosco Films, emphasized this form of encounter with the Lord.
“It’s a very special documentary,” Gonzales said, “because it’s just people speaking about something that happened to them … how their life was before and after this moment in adoration, without knowing what was happening there, that changed their life forever.”
This encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is so meaningful that people have devoted their lives to getting to know Jesus more through Adoration. For example, for the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, a Franciscan order of Brothers in Lincoln, Nebraska, Adoration is central to their lifestyle. “Adoring and encouraging others to adore the Most Blessed Sacrament is essential to the Knights of the Holy Eucharist,” reads their website. “Through Eucharistic adoration the Knights enjoy an intimate friendship with the Person of Jesus and profit from an increase of faith, hope, and charity.”
The Franciscan brothers’ devotion to the Eucharist flows straight from St. Francis, who said, “Let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says, ‘Behold, I am with you until the end of the age.’ [cf. Mt. 28:20]” (Admonition 1:21-22).
The kerygma and the Eucharist are connected in yet another way. The first step in the acceptance of the Gospel is penance; accepting that we are sinners and in need of God. This leads us to the Eucharist, God in the flesh, whom we receive after we confess our sins. St. Francis says: “In all your sermons you shall tell the people of the need to do penance, impressing on them that no one can be saved unless he receives the Body and Blood of our Lord.” (Letter to Superiors of the Order).
So the way to revive belief in the Real Presence is simple: Follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi, who unabashedly preached the kerygma and the Real Presence together – not missing a beat, barely taking a breath between the two teachings – because they are inseparable.
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by the Knights of the Holy Eucharist.
Image credit: Knights of the Holy Eucharist.