“This is my body given for you,” we hear Jesus tell his apostles at the Last Supper; we hear similar words every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. As we celebrate Catechetical Sunday this weekend, with its theme this year of “This is my body given for you,” we recall our Lord giving himself to us for our spiritual nourishment. It is also the only worthy gift we can offer to our heavenly Father in thanksgiving for all that he has given us. What a precious gift we have received and how eager we must be to share it with our children. This weekend, we join with the Church throughout our nation and around the world in celebrating Catechetical Sunday. Those whom the community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth at the 9:30am Mass to be commissioned for their ministry. And, I will ask God’s blessing on all parents who are present as well, praying that God may strengthen them in their resolve to share the precious gift of their faith with their children.
Catechetical Sunday is an important opportunity to reflect on the role that each Christian plays – by virtue of Baptism – in joining in our Lord’s life, death and resurrection. Like Jesus, we humbly submit to our heavenly Father’s will and joyfully share the Gospel – the good news of our salvation. And, as we join with all Catholics throughout our country in a three-year Eucharistic Revival, it is a moment for all of us to reflect on the great gift our Lord has given us: his own body, which he offers us in the precious Sacrament of the Eucharist. And more locally, as I invite everyone in the parish to embrace our new Parish Pastoral Plan, you will notice that the first priority of this plan is to focus, once again, on our Liturgical Experience whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.
At this time, when we all know people – including members of our own families as well as close friends – who have left the Church for a wide variety of reasons, we need to remind ourselves about who we are as a Church. We come to Mass on Sunday to hear what we believe to be the Word of God in Scripture and to receive what we believe to be the life-giving Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, his Son. Since we believe in Jesus, the Word of Life, it is important for all of us to reflect on this and rededicate ourselves to this essential aspect of our responsibility toward our children: being witnesses for Jesus Christ. This is particularly important for our parents because, as the Second Vatican Council states so clearly, “parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.” To emphasize this point, it goes on to say that “their role is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it” (Declaration on Christian Education, §3). The Catechists who will be commissioned this week can only reinforce and codify the lessons that parents teach their children at home, both by word and example. We, the parish staff, recognize this and so we try to work closely with the parents of our students in both our parish school and our parish religious education program (PREP) so that each of us can fulfill our proper role in raising our children in the ways of the faith.
Catechesis is a distinct and special ministry in the Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life . . . her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis” (§ 7). This ministry of teaching in the name of the Church has a profound dignity, which is why catechists are formally commissioned by the Church. It is most appropriate that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and invite the entire Church community to think about our responsibility to share our faith with others.
In a world where so many have forgotten God or turned away from God, catechesis leads us to understand that God is essential in our lives. Especially today, when so many people live simply according to their feelings and for their personal gain, catechesis teaches that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that true happiness is found in following His commands, especially the command to love God and our neighbor. After all, God has made us all for Himself and, as St. Augustine said so well, our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
As we begin another school year, let’s all rededicate ourselves to learning about and deepening our faith so that, with our hearts burning within us like the first disciples, we may lead others – especially our children – to him with renewed zeal. And, let me take this opportunity, in the name of our entire parish, to thank those who have heard the call to become catechists for our children; it is such an extremely important role you play in passing on the precious gift of our faith!