Some great points from the Zenit translation of a December 2, 2005 Advent homily given to Pope Benedict XVI and the Curia in preparation for Christmas by Fr. Cantalamessa, Preacher for the Papal Household
You can find the whole homily, which is quite long, at the Zenit website. But I just wanted to pull out a few particuarly interesting points for discussion.
"Even more worrying is what is observed in society in general, including those who define themselves "Christian believers." In what, in fact, do those in Europe and other places believe who define themselves "believers?" In the majority of cases, they believe in a supreme being, a creator; they believe in "the beyond."
But this is a deist faith, not yet a Christian faith. Taking into account Karl Barth's well-known distinction, the latter is religion, not yet faith. Different sociological researches note this fact also in countries and regions of ancient Christian tradition, as the region in which I myself was born, in the Marcas. In practice, Jesus Christ is absent in this type of religiosity. "
All the authors of the New Testament show that they presupposed the existence and knowledge, on the part of readers, of a common tradition (paradosis) which goes back to the earthly Jesus. This tradition presents two aspects, or two components: a component called "preaching," or announcement (kerygma) which proclaims what God has wrought in Jesus of Nazareth, and a component called "teaching" (didache) which presents ethical norms for correct conduct on the part of believers. Several Pauline letters reflect this distribution, because they contain a kerygmatic first part, from which a second part derives of a parenetic or practical character.
The preaching, or kerygma, is called the "gospel"; the teaching, or didache, instead is called the "law," or the commandment of Christ that is summarized in charity. These two things, the first -- the kerygma, or gospel -- is what gives origin to the Church; the second -- the law, or the charity that springs from the first, is what draws for the Church an ideal of moral life, which "forms" the faith of the Church. In this connection, the Apostle distinguishes before the Corinthians his work of "father" in the faith from that of the "pedagogues" who came after him. He says: "For it is I, through the Gospel, who has begotten you in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians ).
Therefore, faith as such flowers only in the presence of the kerygma, or the announcement. "How are they to believe -- writes the Apostle speaking of faith in Christ -- in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" Literally, "without some one who proclaims the kerygma" (choris keryssontos). And he concludes: "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans ), where by "preaching" the same thing is understood, that is, the "gospel" or kerygma. 3. Rediscover the Kerygma
This situation greatly affects evangelization today. The Churches with a strong dogmatic and theological tradition (as the Catholic Church is par excellence), run the risk of finding themselves at a disadvantage if underneath the immense patrimony of doctrine, laws and institutions, they do not find that primordial nucleus capable of awakening faith by itself.
To present oneself to the man of today, often lacking any knowledge of Christ, with the whole range of this doctrine is like putting one of those heavy brocade capes all of a sudden on the back of a child. We are more prepared by our past to be "shepherds" than to be "fishers" of men; that is, better prepared to nourish people that come to the Church then to bring new people to the Church, or to catch again those who have fallen away and live outside of her.
This is one of the reasons why in some parts of the world many Catholics leave the Catholic Church for other Christian realities; they are attracted by a simple and effective announcement that puts them in direct contact with Christ and makes them experience the power of his Spirit.