It seems to be increasingly common that we meet someone who has no idea what the Christian message is. Even though we are aware of how post-Christian our society has become, it still comes as a surprise when you encounter someone for whom this message is brand new.
This is what I have discovered recently with a woman who wants to become Catholic. This is a wonderful lady who has had an experience of God, but I discovered, on telling her the Gospel message, the kerygma, that it was completely new to her.
We are meeting up weekly for extra catechesis using the excellent Anchor resource. I told her what happened at the Annunciation and the meaning of this for the whole of humanity. “Wow,” she said, “that is just amazing.” The following week, I told her the whole story of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. I spend much of my life giving catechesis, but there is something extremely different about telling someone the Gospel message for the very first time. As I told her what happened to Jesus, the devastation of the Apostles, what happened on the Sunday morning, the realisation that he had risen, and some of the Resurrection appearances, it took on a new freshness for me too. I was telling something that really happened. When the lady heard that Jesus rose from the dead, she responded, “but that’s just incredible… that means he overcame death? So… we never have to worry about death, we never have to be afraid!” It was kind of strange and wonderful at the same time to witness someone’s initial reaction to the Good News that Jesus rose from the dead.
The title of the first episode of the Catholicism series is “Amazed and Afraid”. It is based on a line in Mark’s Gospel which says:
“And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” Mark 10:32
The disciples, if they hadn’t done so already, were realising Who Jesus was, and this dawning realisation made them “amazed” and “afraid” – two powerful reactions to the Presence of God himself. This is the reaction the Gospel message should elicit in us – especially those two fundamental truths – that God became a man, and that God died in the flesh for us. I discovered, as I was telling the Gospel message to this lady for the first time, that if we stop being amazed and afraid by these incredible mysteries, it means we’ve stopped diving deeper into them, we’ve “domesticated” them.