The New Evangelization seeks to simplify—without making simplistic—the central message of the Gospel so that it is accessible to all. With that in mind, I have summarized the gist of our salvation narrative in three words: rescue, restoration, and reassurance. This is the heart of the kerygma—the primary proclamation of the Gospel. Through the life, teachings, miracles, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, we are rescued, restored, and reassured. Let’s visit the last of the Three Rs, reassurance.
When my grandson Patrick, age 2 at the time, had his first sleepover at Gaga’s (aka Grandma) and Bumpa’s (aka Grandpa) house, my wife stayed with Patrick for a while when it was time for him to go to sleep. We were concerned that he might be afraid not sleeping in his own bed. Sure enough, when she turned the lights out, Patrick got a little tense. My wife cuddled him and said, “It’s OK, Patrick. Gaga is here!” He was very comforted by that and fell asleep peacefully. Since then, Patrick likes to recall that story and remind us of how Gaga reassured him by saying, “It’s OK, Patrick. Gaga is here.”
Whenever we reassure someone who is experiencing fear, anxiety, or despair, we are acting in the divine image. Throughout salvation history, God has continually reassured his people that he is in their midst and that they will have a future. Let’s face it, the world we live in can be a very scary place, not just for little children, but also for us adults! Like Patrick, we all need reassurance.
It’s no secret that one of the most often-repeated lines in Scripture is “Do not be afraid” or some variation thereof (fear not, be not afraid, do not fear, peace be with you, and so on). Even Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending into heaven were words of reassurance: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Reassurance is one of the benefits of accompaniment. Sometimes, people just don’t want to be alone. When we accompany others through difficult times, we don’t have to have all the answers. We only need to assure them that they are not alone and that they are going to be OK (while noting that, for some, that OK-ness will be eventual, not immediate). Reassurance plays a critical role in catechesis. One of the reasons we proclaim the Gospel is to reassure people of the nearness of God and of his saving grace. Like my wife, calming Patrick in the darkness, we need to reassure those experiencing darkness in their lives that the light of the world—Jesus Christ—is with them!