Evangelization: The Gospel as “Good News for Me” - St. Bernard's

Evangelization: The Gospel as “Good News for Me”

Jun 20, 2023

Michael Ceragioli

The following is an adaptation from a newly published book, "Sent Forth: Handbook for a Missionary Church," by Fr. Ignacio Llorente and Michael Ceragioli

Information assails us. We see too much and hear too much — too much we cannot make much of. We are like snorkelers in a frenetic, color-streaked sea; we hardly have the chance to follow a fish flashing by before another darting species makes a call upon our attention. We deal with input from beyond our control, and we also invite the assault. Information assails by way of the ubiquitous systems and social worlds in which we can’t help but find ourselves — as well as through our own willed, privatized consumption.

We are always grappling with our information intake, playing around with the valve, and, in truth, always ill at ease with the balance we have struck. We are forever wringing our hands about our management of the inflow, seeking a fresh approach in one way or another — whether readjusting our exposure to oversaturated spaces, vowing to limit our habit of purposeless scrolling, or changing our media loyalties to correspond with a shift in perspective. We are always asking ourselves: What should I let in? What should I pay attention to? The answer varies from day to day; admirable are those for whom the answer does not only vary but moreover evolves into configuration with a fuller grasp of truth and a deeper commitment to goodness. We monitor, fret, reassess, wonder, and for all that, we are never certain — nor should we be, given the difficulty — that we have gotten on top of this question.

When we are confronted directly with information that impacts us, or even more powerfully, with information about us, we turn insatiable. Say we hear one of the following statements: “Your exam results are back. . . . We were talking about you the other day, and we all agreed that you. . . . Your personality assessment revealed something interesting. . . . ” In each case, we want to hear the next word, with a sort of “want” different in kind and different in intensity from our desire (good-willed and broad-minded though we may be) to know, for instance, the present status of the endangered Galapagos tortoises. There is information that affects you, and then there is everything else. There is the easily-tuned-out din of interminable announcements at the airport, and then there is the one announcement, delivered in the same monotonous tone as the rest, that sends your heart racing: the final call for boarding on your flight, and one particular passenger, you, are being called to Gate C12. Our response to information can be understood as a function of the degree to which that information affects us personally. The information that really makes a mark is, invariably, self-implicating information. There is no exception to the rule: not only infatuated romantic partners, but also sun-shy lab scientists, respond as they do to their chosen interest inasmuch as they have become personally invested and implicated in what they process.

We may define evangelization as “sharing the Good News,” that is, the Good News Jesus called His disciples to carry out to all nations. This charter implies the conviction that the Good News is good news for all. The evangelist is as sound as this conviction is strong in them, for the evangelist must believe in their heart, seek to convey by their speech, and transmit through their very person the universal significance of their message. By reaching the limit of the universal, it also penetrates to the level of the absolutely personal: if the gospel is for all, then the gospel is for each. The evangelist speaks a message for you, a message addressed to you: it is always your flight that is boarding.

Accordingly, each person who hears the proclamation in faith may affirm, “This is good news for me.” The particularity of the gospel brings us to the contemporaneity of Jesus. Jesus lived as a human being among human beings in His earthly life. Now glorified and resurrected, the Son of God lives among us without limitation of time and place, drawing us into communion with Him today. Christ’s presence empowers the gospel as an active and effective reality directed towards each person as a means of encounter. In his book, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa writes of this feature of the kerygma, which means the proclamation of the gospel:

In the kerygma, “Jesus is Lord!”, a mysterious transition takes place from history to “today” and to “for me.” For it proclaims that the events narrated are not facts in the past, shut up in themselves, but reality is still active in the present: Jesus crucified and risen, his Lord here and now; He lives by the Spirit and rules over all! Coming to the faith is the sudden, astonished opening of one's eyes to this light.[1]

If we define preaching the kerygma or evangelizing as sharing the Good News, then we have to hasten to add that it is to share the Good News personally, that is, in its personal significance, for the good of each recipient. When we share the gospel, we unfold the historical and eternal consequences of the coming of Jesus. We establish that this Jesus of Nazareth is alive today, that His love radiates out to meet and uplift us today. But we present the message not as a treatise — not as a kind of public lecture of interest for those who would like to acquire knowledge — but as an announcement. An announcement may be of objective interest, but it is also immediately and specifically relevant. The kerygma is an announcement or, to translate directly from the Greek, a proclamation. It calls for a response.

[1] Raniero Cantalamessa, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus: The Mystery of Christ’s Baptism (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1994), 44.

Michael Ceragioli was born in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and received his BA in philosophy in 2014 from Pomona College in Claremont, CA. After graduating, he served traumatized youth in San Francisco, CA as a mental health counselor. He received a Master's degree in theology from Mt. Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, OR, writing his thesis on "Curiosity in St. Augustine's Confessions." Michael directs theological ministries at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Portland, OR. He is currently serving as the Program Director for the Certificate in Evangelization.