This series of teaching editorials focuses on “Christ is Alive,” the 2019 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis and our youth and young adult ministry efforts in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Are you someone who evangelizes, that is, do you share the Good News of Jesus Christ with friends or even strangers? Many of us are reticent, and Catholics in general have been accused of being timid about sharing our faith. In his recent apostolic exhortation, “Christus Vivit” or “Christ is Alive,” Pope Francis encourages us to evangelize – especially with youth and young adults – and he even gives us the three core messages that should be part of our outreach.
Pope Francis released this apostolic exhortation a year ago on March 25, 2019, following the 15th ordinary synod on “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.” This apostolic exhortation and our outreach to youth and young adults in our Archdiocese are the topics for this series of teaching editorials.
To help us reach out to others, in “Christ is Alive,” Pope Francis shared core messages that form what we call the kerygma, which is Greek for “proclamation” and has come to mean the core or the most basic and most important part of the message of evangelization. The word evangelize is made up of two Greek words: “eu”, which means “good,” and “angelion”, which means “message” or “news.” Thus, in “Christ is Alive,” Pope Francis announces to youth and young adults the very essence of the Good News today. Pope Francis wants the young and the young at heart to experience fully the transforming presence of Jesus Christ, and these three core messages are so appropriate to carry with us as we approach Holy Week and celebrate Easter.
The first message of the kerygma consists of three powerful words: “God loves you.” Two quotes from the Old Testament prophets will help us understand the depth of these three words. The prophet Hosea 11.4 speaks of God lifting us up “…like those who lift infants to their cheeks.” There is a tenderness to God’s love, and the prophet Isaiah 49:15 in praising a mother’s love says “…even if your mother would forget you, yet I will not forget you.” In an age of isolation and loneliness and the desolation and despair that may come from it, we shout to the world: “God loves you.”
The second core message is also three brief words: “Christ saves you.” Out of his deep love, Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross and sacrificed himself completely to save us. Ironically, this image of the outstretched arms of Christ means the most when you and I fail or sin. When we experience helplessness, we are most aware of our need for our savior to rescue us. Perhaps the clearest image of a savior involves someone entangled in addiction, who, as Alcoholics Anonymous has rightly identified, uncovers a “Higher Power.” We need Jesus who saves.
The third core message also emerges as three words: “Christ is alive.” Inseparable from the first and the second announcement is this proclamation that brings the message into our daily lives. Jesus Christ before ascending into heaven, but after his resurrection, gives his final words in Matthew 28:20 “I will be with you always to the end of the ages.” “Christ is alive” means that He is not simply a remote historical figure from 2000 years ago who provides us with a model for living, but He is someone who lives this day and desires an encounter with each one of us.
The message is very clear to young people. You are so important in God’s eyes. Be passionate about the adventure of life, of loving and of giving as Jesus, who not only models the right path but also gives us the very power to follow him. God so deeply loves you. Christ so unselfishly died for you. Jesus Christ alive today wants you also to live in His love. In this kerygma, we find hope for our lives, for this world and for life eternal.
The Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville