“Last one out the door, please turn out the lights!”

This phase was common during the energy crisis of the 1970s. The awareness to conserve gas and electricity instilled a habit remaining with some today to turn out the lights each time one leaves the room. It is common in church parishes for a catechist, namely the Director of Religious Education (at schools and parish halls), to switch the lights on and off since they arrive early and leave late. It is their commitment to forming disciples, together with the sacrifice of extended hours, training and planning that we honor the important role of catechists.

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

The 24th and 25th Sundays in Ordinary Time fall within the celebration of Catechetical Sunday. The readings show forth the message of the cross. “The message is three-fold and similar to the message of faith formation called the kerygma: The subject of proclamation is Christ who was crucified, died and is risen: through him is accomplished our full and authentic liberation from evil, sin and death; through him God bestows ‘new life’ that is divine and eternal. This is the ‘Good News’ which changes man and his history, and which all peoples have a right to hear (Redemptoris Missio 44, St. John Paul II, 1990).

Message of the cross

St. John Paul II continues, “The vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the kingdom” through his suffering, death and resurrection. Thus, the task of catechesis is to lead others in faith to the message of the cross by promoting knowledge of the faith, participation in liturgical and sacramental life, moral formation, teaching to pray, preparation and participation in community and developing a missionary spirit. This begins in the family and further supported by the faith formation ministries of the church.

Catechesis & suffering

Since we are baptized in the life of Jesus Christ, we are also baptized into a life, which includes suffering, death and new life, the resurrection. The prophet Isaiah tells of the suffering servant, persecuted by a steadfast commitment to God, who is the constant source of strength and help. Thus, “we walk before the Lord because he hears our cry and answers” (Ps(s) 116).

Faith & works

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8:34). The Letter of St. James centers on the importance of faith and works. Believing without “doing” is fruitless. We are called to have a lived-faith, whereby our actions one will know the faith in which we believe. The faith one must know is also one that continues to grow in order to become the very person we are called to imitate: Jesus Christ.

Father John Paul MFVA gave a recent homily in which he explained the power of God on the cross. He emphasized that the sign of Christianity is the crucifix. We begin and close prayers with the Sign of the Cross. We enter the church, dip our finger in holy water then make the Sign of the Cross. This action is one of faith. What does this mean? The cross to those without faith is a sign of contradiction. Yet, to those with faith, it is a sign of victory and love. Father John Paul recalls St. John Paul II’s message that by the cross Jesus strikes at the root of evil and accomplishes salvation. Life with Christ is eternity. The northern point of our faith compass is heaven.

God’s remedy of the effects of suffering is Jesus, as given in John 3:16. Jesus is the means to salvation. He is our teacher and our healer. He loves us beyond measure. He calls us to holiness and wants us to overcome sin, so much so, he took upon all the sufferings of our sins on the cross and saved us from ourselves. He did this for you. He did this for me. Father John Paul stated, “The beams of the cross are the intersection where heaven and earth meet. It is the crossroads of mankind, where Jesus us meets upon the cross and we meet him where his heart is. Only then will we find purpose and meaning in our struggles and pain.” Do I believe in his act of love? Do I walk away in resentment? Is my life conformed to the cross in love and sacrifice? Father John Paul continues, “Can I see myself on the cross? It is an autobiography of our lives written, with Jesus’ body as the parchment and his blood as the ink.” By the very act of love and the heart of mercy, Jesus lifts up our dignity and value on the cross. We are worth THAT much to him.

Begins in the home

The faith we uphold and live begins in the home. Parents are the first to form and to witness to their children this life-giving faith. In turn, the family, as members of the community of believers in the church, led by the main catechist (the pastor), shares this mission of formation through the parish school of religion or the Catholic school. Within these ministries are dedicated witnesses enlisted to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We ask God to strengthen our families in their mission to hand on the faith as great witnesses of Jesus; to inspire our pastors to provide ample opportunities for formation; and to provide more catechists who are willing to serve and keep the light of Christ illuminating the halls until we meet in eternity. Amen.

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.