Thursday of 24th week in course 2015
Joy of the Gospel
Today the Franciscans celebrate the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis. The few saints who have legitimately borne the marks of Christ’s passion live out in a physical and spiritual way the long hours of Christ’s passion and death, and reveal in their own mortal bodies the immortal signs of Christ’s love that we will see when we enjoy the Beatific Vision. The Book of Revelations says that He is the Lamb, standing but yet slain, so in His glorified body those wounds are still visible. We will never be allowed to forget the price of our redemption, because in those wounds we are healed.
The Holy Father’s encyclical has been talking about growing in faith. He goes on: ‘Education and catechesis are at the service of this growth.’ He recommends that we review the General Catechetical Directory, not quite twenty years old, and highlights some of their teachings: ‘In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the centre of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. The kerygma is trinitarian. The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy. On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment. For this reason too, “the priest – like every other member of the Church – ought to grow in awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized” We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart. The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical. All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes which foster openness to the message: approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.
Another aspect of catechesis which has developed in recent decades is mystagogic initiation. This basically has to do with two things: a progressive experience of formation involving the entire community and a renewed appreciation of the liturgical signs of Christian initiation. Many manuals and programs have not yet taken sufficiently into account the need for a mystagogical renewal, one which would assume very different forms based on each educational community’s discernment. Catechesis is a proclamation of the word and is always centred on that word, yet it also demands a suitable environment and an attractive presentation, the use of eloquent symbols, insertion into a broader growth process and the integration of every dimension of the person within a communal journey of hearing and response.’
The Holy Father is on the verge of reminding us that, as Pope Benedict often taught, the Christian faith attracts not just by its Truth, and by its Goodness. Truth and Goodness are not easily perceived in a Church surrounded by a culture that calls us liars and our priests child molesters. A lying and vice-riddled culture does not abide Truth and Goodness, and does not allow Truth and Goodness to seem true and good. The first attraction of the Catholic Church is often the beauty of her worship. The Pope will help us get into that area next week.