September 14, 2007

Religious Education Supplement

Encountering Christ: priceless

By Kenneth Ogorek

The theme for Catechetical Sunday this year is “Catechesis: Encountering the Living Christ.” Like all good themes, it opens up a world of ideas to use as springboards for accomplishing the goals of this effort.

Encountering the living Jesus Christ calls to mind an important document—one that sort of got lost in the shuffle, at least in catechetical circles, surrounding the year 2000. This document has a lot to tell us about catechesis in America.

Shortly before the year 2000,

Pope John Paul II met with the bishops of North, Central and South America. He listened and afterward reflected back what he saw as priorities for the Church in this part of the world. His written reflections for all Catholics of the Americas are On the Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America.

The catechetical ministry in America—including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—receives energy from a review of Pope John Paul II’s plan for action. Catechetical Sunday this year connects nicely to the Holy Father’s ideas.

The Good News of salvation from sin and death doesn’t seem all that good if we don’t realize our need for ongoing conversion. Turning away from sin to a clearer focus on God and his priorities is an underlying theme of catechesis. As catechists, we ask, “How will my teaching—by God’s grace—help draw people closer to Jesus and toward a fuller participation in his Church?”

Closeness to Jesus is the communion that every human heart seeks. We encounter Jesus in many ways, including the Church’s teaching and in the Eucharist. Communion with Jesus unites us to our sisters and brothers in him.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” God weighed in on this question long ago.

We have a duty to each other—to do works of mercy across the board. Sometimes works of mercy are corporal, like giving alms to the poor. Other times, they are spiritual, such as praying for the living and the dead. Catechists always share the teaching of the Church in ways that encourage people to put their faith in action—to encounter the living Christ in each of our sisters and brothers.

Pope Benedict XVI echoes the themes above in his writing—reminding us that “God is Love” and that the Eucharist is a mystery to be offered to the world, including various social implications. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein—our chief shepherd and catechist—provides an excellent example as one who takes to heart Jesus’ great commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

We have excellent resources to use in teaching the faith, including the National Directory for Catechesis. This challenges us to engage in a pastoral catechesis—in an effort to share our Catholic faith while inviting the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of the faithful toward conversion, communion and solidarity.

As we celebrate Catechetical Sunday 2007, let’s be committed to the team effort that makes catechesis great. Let’s keep catechesis on a track that makes it an encounter with the living Christ—inviting enthusiastic participation in his holy, Catholic Church. When we do, the result is—in a word—priceless.

(Kenneth Ogorek is the director of catechesis for the archdiocese.) †

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