The series of exceptional events we encounter in the post-Pentecost discourse from St. Peter expressed in Acts of the Apostles reveals something important about the proclamation of the Kerygma or the content of the Christian message. The entire Petrine address to the Apostles and the men of Judea involved expressing the exceptionality of Jesus Christ to develop a personal conversion to Him.
As St. Peter initiates his kerygmatic discourse, he clarifies what has just occurred during the Pentecost event, that is, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He continues his discourse by explaining the importance of proclaiming the name of Jesus as part of accommodating their life now to Jesus Christ. The events of the Paschal Mystery are reiterated to show that the Son of God came to save mankind from the evil of sin and death and how man’s actions led to Jesus' crucifixion.
What is telling about this entire sequence of evangelistic events is the Men of Israel’s response to St. Peter’s message of being “cut to the heart” and immediately asking the question like a young child; “what shall we do?” Immediately St. Peter instructed them to remove all impediments that would prevent them from following Jesus Christ, and second, enter God’s kingdom through the sacrament of baptism. The result is the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit.
A Proper Accommodation
The entire post-Pentecost sequence demonstrates how sound orthopraxis or the experience of faith is rooted in having a proper orthodoxy or right teaching of the faith. This entire structure reveals the importance of accommodating the exceptionality of Jesus Christ in a conversation about the Christian faith. The Catechism provides us with an important example of how to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ through a proper accommodation of faith:
We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.” The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross.
The prophet Isaiah provides us with further insight into the process of accommodation of faith;
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Why speak of accommodating the exceptionality of Jesus Christ at all? Because in Jesus Christ we have a remarkable Divine figure who is both fully human and fully divine sent to save us from our sins. The basis of any kerygmatic dialogue requires that we engage our own human identity and investigate how it reflects a divine identity. Jesus Christ both saves and anoints, these salvific acts reflect what St. Peter spoke about in his post-Pentecost discourse ultimately leading apostles, disciples, and fellow brethren to:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers.
This entire kerygmatic schema expresses the importance of understanding our own identity as children of God who are infinitely loved as expressed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we choose to accommodate Jesus Christ both in our baptismal mission and in our relationship with Him, the hopeful result is an integration of a life wholly dedicated to the conversion of souls. The book of Proverbs echoes this kerygmatic sentiment:
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight; for I give you good precepts: do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me, and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live; do not forget and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Get wisdom; get insight.
When we earnestly speak of the exceptionality of Jesus Christ, we are inviting someone to consider the awe and wonder of someone who loves us so much, that he was willing to die for us so that we would die in sin. This is truly exceptional.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,’ as it is written of me in the roll of the book.