Beginning on the Feast of Christ the King and going through the season of Advent, the parishes of the archdiocese will be re-proclaiming the kerygma — the Good News of the Gospel — in what is intended to be an archdiocesan-wide retreat. Over the next four weeks, the Denver Catholic will publish guest reflections penned by priests of the archdiocese on the four main parts of the kerygma: Created (read here), Captured, Rescued and Response.* We encourage you to revisit these pieces throughout the Advent season and pray with the reflection questions provided, so that we may all come to know the saving power of the Gospel in an even deeper way and therefore live out the Lord’s mission for his pilgrim Church on earth! Also, be sure to stay tuned to denvercatholic.org each week to watch a special homily video series on the kerygma.
By Father Sean Conroy
Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver
Our world is hurting. Our world is broken. I hope this does not come as a surprise to hear. We look out into the world, and we see brokenness and discord. We turn on the news and see war torn countries, demagoguery, and the incongruous claim that our biological sex does not matter. We look back in history and we see some extremely grotesque things, even evil things. We look back at the 20th century and see the bloodiest century in history.
Our world is broken. It’s easy to blame the world’s brokenness on other external things. Look at the horrors of Nazi Germany and The Final Solution. Look at the horrors of the Russian Gulags. The world is broken, but nothing is wrong with me; I’m fine. This is the great temptation: to blame the brokenness that we see on everyone and everything else. Thus, what may come as a surprise to hear is that the world is broken because we are broken. We are hurting. We have a disharmony within us. Indeed, you and I are broken. Instead of attributing the world’s brokenness to external things, we ought to look at what’s internal. We must look at our own brokenness. Our world is broken because you and I are broken.
There’s a story that has been attributed to G.K. Chesterton that goes like this: in the early 1900s, The Times sent out an inquiry to famous authors asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” and Chesterton simply responded: “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”1
Pope Francis has a similar line. In one of his first public interviews as Pope, he was asked “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The pope responded, “I am a sinner… This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”2 What went wrong? Isn’t the world created good? We find ourselves in a world that is created good by our all-loving God. Indeed, we are made in his image and likeness. We are created good. After the six days of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Yet, something tragic happened. Sin entered the world! Adam and Eve were disobedient to God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The communion and harmony that Adam and Eve experienced with God, others, and nature have tragically turned into alienations and disharmonies with God, others, and nature. This Original Sin is an event that took place. Yet, it is also a state. Humanity is in the fallen state of Original Sin that is passed down “not by imitation, but by propagation.”3
Because we are human, we share in this state of Original Sin. There is no way around this. The consequence of sin is not merely that we are separated from God, but furthermore, that we are in the hands of the enemy, Satan, who is the prince of this world.4 Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and we have been captured by him. Indeed, we have been captured by the enemy, Satan, into this miserable state of death and sin. Satan holds us captive through sin. He is seeking to destroy our lives. He accuses, lies, divides, tempts, and discourages. Satan’s strategy is to convince us that God is not our loving Father and that we can be happy without God. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans makes this clear: “All men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (Rom 3:9); “Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned — sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam” (Rom 5:12-14). The root of the Greek word used here for reign is βασιλεύς (Basileus), which means king.
Death reigned as a king or kingdom. Death indeed has reigned because of the Fall. And due to the Fall, we are in this wretched state of Original Sin. And due to this, we have been captured by sin and death. We are broken and held captive by the enemy. We are in need of a rescuer. We have been captured behind enemy lines, waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue us. There is hope: Maranatha! Lord, come soon!
After reading this article, pray and meditate with the following questions. Listen for what the Holy Spirit might be trying to tell you.
1. What are some of the ways you are or have been captured by the enemy?
2. What are the weaknesses the enemy exploits in you to try and keep you in a captive state?
3. What are the lies that the enemy is deceiving you with right now?
*These terms are borrowed from Father John Riccardo’s presentation of the Gospel in his retreats and writing. The Archdiocese has been blessed to be working with Father Riccardo and his apostolate Acts XXIX for the last year. The Denver Catholic recommends his book, Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, for going deeper on these concepts.