June 10, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Adult catechism is faithful aid for our response to conversion

(Listen to the archbishop read this column)

(Editor’s note: While Archbishop Buechlein continues to recover from a stroke, we offer some reprints of his various columns for your enrichment. The following column is from the Sept. 22, 2006, issue of The Criterion.)

Does truth matter? Recently, a Christian leader said that we need to get away from theological squabble and feed the hungry.

Of course, we need to feed the hungry as a vital service. We do not need theological squabble, but we need theology. If social service is divorced from the unique truth of Christianity, the seeds of disintegration unfold.

In his encyclical “God is Love,” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that we need to contemplate the truth of Christ in the Gospel if we are truly to serve those in need with “the eyes of the heart, with the eyes of Jesus.” He reminds us that without this contemplation, we succumb to a secular activism that is not truly of Christ.

The egalitarian influence of our culture affects the realm of ideas and opinion as much as any other aspect of life. A modern tendency to give equal weight to all ideas and opinions has a subtle but devastating effect on the Christian life because it seduces us into thinking that there is no such thing as absolute truth.

If we think there is no such thing as absolute truth, we will never truly believe that Jesus is Son of God and Savior of the world. As a friend of mine remarked, “In line with modern habits, we might judge Christian teaching to be acceptable, reasonable or even appealing—but that’s a far cry from actually being Christian.”

We need to be careful about the nature of our believing. The mission of God’s Son was not to teach a philosophy, but to reveal the truth so we might be saved. He himself is the Truth, the absolute truth. He is God’s complete revelation of himself. The revelation of truth in Jesus came to its climax in his complete outpouring of himself in his death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

In a culture that questions anything of faith, it is not difficult to hang on to opinions and to espouse glaring discrepancies from the fundamental truths of the mystery of Christ. It is easy to consider our view of the faith as if from a superior position and to leave honest self-examination to another day. It is as if we are saying, “Jesus said, but I tend to disagree…” It seems unthinkable that a Christian would say such a thing, but perhaps we do just that, and more often than we might like to admit.

It is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus and to embrace all that he taught as it has been handed on to us in the Bible and in Tradition. Yet, it is not really so complicated if we recognize that our faith calls for conversion, not convincing. When you get down to it, we are called to a humble surrender of our lives to Jesus Christ. That is not to say that we do not or should not need to develop our understanding of what this surrender means.

Recently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. This catechism is a user-friendly presentation of the truths of our Catholic faith in the context of the contemporary culture in our country.

In a straightforward manner, this book addresses what we believe in the face of current questions, issues and obstacles engaged by our faith. The pattern or format of this catechism is based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and faithfully presents the truth of our faith as contained in it.

The structure of the adult catechism is such that it draws the reader into a teaching about a particular doctrine of the faith. First, there is an introductory story of an important Catholic man or woman whose life illustrates the doctrine being taught. The teaching follows. There is a presentation of cultural issues that seem to contradict or confront the truth of faith.

Brief relevant excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church are provided. There is a spiritual meditation pertaining to the doctrinal teaching. Questions for discussion are also provided. This is the pattern for each topical chapter.

One can read the adult catechism straight through from beginning to end, but it is not necessary to do so. A detailed index by subject allows for research of specific doctrines of the Church.

I recommend the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults for adult religious education and formation. I recommend it as a fine resource for RCIA. I also recommend it for use by young adults who are hungering for knowledge about what we believe, and why our Catholic faith and practices matter.

Faith in God demands that we humbly surrender our lives to him who alone is Truth. The adult catechism is a faithful aid for our response to conversion. †

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