By PEDRO MENDEZ
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Our diocese will celebrate Catechetical Sunday next weekend to recognize our ministry as catechists and to remind us of our role within God’s plan of salvation. One of my kids’ favorite movies is “Cars 3,” in which the story develops around the struggles of the “old” race car, Lightning McQueen, who is competing with the “next generation” of race cars. Cruz Ramirez, one of the best trainers, appears on the scene to improve McQueen's performance. In one scene, she and McQueen are in a pickle competing with other cars in an unexpected scenario. In order to not face her challenges and fears, Cruz Ramirez responds, “(I am) not a racer, (I am) a trainer.” With McQueen’s help, Cruz Ramirez discovers her own identity at the end of the movie: she is a racer winning a race against all odds!
Sometimes, it is easy to lose sight of our identity as catechists amid so much distraction, confusion and self-sufficiency in an optimistic, greedy and relativistic society. It is easy to say, “I am not a racer, I am a trainer;” “I am not a catechist, I am the parent;” “I am not a catechist; I don’t know enough about my faith.” The subtlest way a catechist loses sight of their identity is when they think of themselves as, or are even called, a “volunteer.” All of us who are baptized are called to be catechists and to claim our identity as catechists!
Who is a catechist? A catechist is a baptized person who assumes their responsibility to educate others in the Christian faith; to make them disciples of Christ with the ultimate goal of reaching the perfect unity in the life of the Holy Trinity. But, what amount of knowledge of the faith is necessary to make others disciples of Christ? We might feel tempted to think that solely conveying the knowledge of our faith makes disciples of Christ, but it does not. The "education” necessary to make others disciples of Christ is the one that is taught by a witness of Jesus Christ. A witness of Christ is a person who has trusted their broken self to Him and has embraced God’s love and mercy as it is revealed in Scripture and the Church’s doctrine to the point that their life draws others to Christ.
In real life, educating by witnessing looks like a parishioner sharing their struggles to believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and how they have found consolation and spiritual strength through their experience of consuming Christ’s Body and Blood. It looks like a couple sharing the blessings and struggles of their marriage with those preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony. It looks like a Catholic school teacher who not only teaches the academic subject of theology or religion but also shares their personal experience of Christ’s redeeming work in their life. It looks like children seeing their father asking forgiveness from their mother after behaving wrongly, going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and teaching others about forgiveness.
Faith education by witnessing God’s love brings doctrine into practice. It is about those who have joined the Roman centurion saying, “Lord, say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Liturgical adaptation of Matthew 8:8, the Roman Centurion’s response to Jesus’ willingness to heal his servant). It is about broken people sharing how Christ is making them holy and whole. There is an intimate connection between evangelization, the new evangelization and catechesis – we educate others in the faith by sharing our experience of what we believe.
The Church's doctrine informs discipleship but does not substitute it. True discipleship to Jesus always wrestles with doctrine, looks for understanding and gives reasons for one's hope to those who are being catechized.
After all, we might discover that we have so much to share about how Jesus is healing and restoring our lives as it is revealed in the Scriptures and the Church’s doctrine. Let’s claim our identity as catechists! We are not meant to sit on the sidelines like a trainer; we are Christ’s witnesses meant to be in the race!