Don’t forget the importance of the invitation!

The kerygma is so fundamental to our Catholic faith that we often breeze over it. It’s like the nose on your face; it’s a vital part of you, but how often do you notice it in your daily life? We were created for relationship with God. Through sin we are separated from God by an infinite abyss.  The Father loves us so much that He sent down his only begotten Son to save us. None of this should be news to us. However, we often neglect the fourth and crucial point of the kerygma: we need to choose to respond to Christ’s invitation. How else can we have a conversion of life unless we choose Christ?

 

In Clear & Simple, Andre Regnier takes us through this often overlooked point of the kerygma. Read on for an excerpt from the book on why our response is so critical.

 

Fourth Point: Invitation to Respond

We are now going to focus in on the end goal of evangelization. That is, we’ll look at how to invite people to respond and experience firsthand the joy of being a son or daughter of the Father. As we prepare for our part in this sacred moment, let’s reflect by making it personal.

Conversion son and daughter of God

 

It’s nice to receive an invitation to a friend’s wedding, anniversary or any other special function, isn’t it? Sometimes this is most striking when that doesn’t happen. I remember sitting around a table, talking with friends about the extravagant wedding plans of a mutual friend. It was going to be the event of the season! Inside, I lamented that I would not be able to enjoy the event since I hadn’t been invited. Sure, I appreciated the work that was being put into it, but I was on the outside looking in.

 

That changed the next day when the couple invited me. Suddenly, I had a whole new appreciation and excitement for the day because I was going to share it with them.

 

Similarly, it is inspiring to hear how good God is, but it is a whole other thing to be invited to experience it firsthand.

 

Called Deeper Into Relationship: Catholics want more

 

A number of years ago, when my family was living in Saskatoon, the evangelical preacher Billy Graham came to town. There was a big push for Catholics to get involved, and many people attended. After the event, I was asked to speak to the priests in the diocese about it.

 

Many of those I spoke to criticized the event, especially the altar call— the moment when the preacher invited people to come to the front and invite Christ into their lives. One priest recognized some of his own parishioners as they approached the altar, and he commented to this group of fellow priests that they were active parishioners. They were not the “unsaved,” as Billy Graham’s outreach suggested. It was not people who were lost who went forward to the altar; it was the faithful. From this priest’s perspective, the event had been a waste of time.

 

daughter of God

I responded with a question: “Why did those faithful Catholics feel a need to go to the event and to go forward to give their lives to Christ?” He had no real answer, other than a suggestion that they were just following the crowd. Unwilling to accept his disregard for their authenticity, I put forward the possibility that they may be wanting more out of their relationship with Christ.

 

Consider this: Why are so many Catholics leaving the Church for non-Catholic Christian churches? We can tend to assume it’s something superficial, like a different kind of music or a more engaging style of preaching. But I suspect that often, the real answer is these other churches let them experience some significant aspect of authentic Christian life that they did not recognize was available in their Catholic parishes. If this is so, our response should be to reflect critically on our expression of faith, understanding that authentic Catholic faith does provide people with what their hearts are made for: a personal, intimate relationship with God.

 

Again we go back to the words of Benedict XVI: “Christianity is not ‘a new philosophy or a new form of morality,’ but an encounter with the person of Christ, an event that ignites a personal relationship with  Him” (General Audience, September 3, 2008). We must offer people an opportunity to open their lives to Christ, and we must celebrate and support that decision by bringing them into the community and a solid sacramental life. If we do this, our people will not wander in search of conversion, support, and community outside of the Church.

 

Let’s review what we have done so far in sharing our faith with a friend. We have “proclaimed with great spiritual power” the kerygma. We have laid out the truth: our relationship with God was broken by our sin, but Jesus—who is God—restored this relationship by his life, death, and resurrection. Hopefully, through the Holy Spirit, we have brought the person to a point where they can open their heart to a Christ-centered life. Here, things get exciting … and intimidating.

 

Be bold in the face of spiritual battle

 

It’s at the point of invitation that things may get uncomfortable. The spiritual battle will intensify. From experience, I warn you that you might start looking for a way out. I remember working with a student—let’s call him Jim—a number of years back. Jim had a great desire to be closer to God, but he felt that there was a wall between himself and God. Week after week, I would reiterate to Jim that God wanted to be in a personal relationship with him. Point by point, I would explain who Jesus was and what he had done for us on the cross. And every time, we would arrive at a “turning point.” But rather than pray with Jim right there, I would send him home to the quiet of his room where he could open his heart to Jesus. And, over and over again, nothing changed for Jim.

 

spiritual battle

One day, Jim dropped by the Catholic chapel in the campus to pray and was surprised to find the Church filled with evangelical Protestant students. He stayed, listening attentively to the pastor who was recalling the life and faith of a student who had died a year earlier. Jim was struck by how the pastor described this student’s personal and dynamic relationship with Christ. Jim left that chapel wanting what that other student had.

 

Instead of calling me for help, he sought out an evangelical friend. Jim’s friend knew what he was looking for and how to deal with the “wall” Jim saw. He quickly invited Jim over to talk and, unlike when Jim met with me, he was not sent home to pray. Instead, his friend led him in a prayer of conversion. That night, Jim opened his heart to Christ. The next day, I saw Jim on campus. As he walked towards me, I could see that something had changed in him. He could not wait to tell me how the wall had come down. He was eager to share the joy he felt in his new relationship with Christ.

 

I was thrilled for him! But I also recognized what had been lacking in my own outreach. His evangelical friend believed that when you desire a relationship with Christ, you can simply call out to him and he will respond. My hesitation to pray with Jim exposed my lack of faith that God would hear and answer us. I vowed that day that I would never send anyone home as I did with Jim. I have since been privileged to witness hundreds of Catholics experience conversion as I invite them to open their lives to a relationship with Christ.

 

You can order Clear & Simple HERE if you are in Canada, and HERE if you are in the USA.

You can order our Kerygmatic booklet the Ultimate Relationship Booklet HERE if you are in Canada, and HERE if you are in the USA.

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