October 14-15, 2017

Oct 9, 2017

For the purpose of titling or categorizing this reflection, I might name it “Mary, the Catechist.” In Luke’s Gospel we read that “Jesus grew in wisdom and in age and favor before God and people.” (Luke 2:52) We believe that Jesus embraced fully the human condition, becoming like us in all things except sin. (Cf. Hebrews 4:15) This being the reality, we come to believe that Jesus was guided and taught by Mary and the other mentors He came to know and with whom He lived. Jesus came to learn the teachings of the Torah and the customs and practices of traditional Jewish religion. He joined Mary and Joseph in observing solemn feasts that were noted in the Hebrew Scriptures. The extended family of Jesus along with faithful members of the local synagogue assisted Mary and Joseph in the ongoing education and formation of Jesus. Very likely, Jesus spent a large amount of time listening to and learning from Mary and Joseph so that He at the age of twelve years could comfortably engage in conversation with the teachers in the Jerusalem temple. We read about this event in Luke 2:46-47. 

The Church has continued to proclaim that the primary religion teachers of their children are the parents. Along with the parents, others in the Church community assist parents in this responsibility for children. We all have an important role in the religious formation of our younger brothers and sisters. Whether we do this as appointed catechists in the parish or as neighbors or as fellow parishioners, the privilege and responsibility to “proclaim the Gospel message” is given to all of us. If we, as brothers and sisters to one another in Christ Jesus, are to be a part of the ongoing process of teaching the Gospel message, we also need to be a part of the ongoing process of learning the Gospel message. We cannot teach unless we learn, just as we cannot preach effectively, unless we practice effectively. What a sacred privilege and responsibility we have been given —to help bring our brothers and sisters to life in Christ Jesus! 

In order to fulfill our mission as evangelists (teachers of the “Good News”) we need to be able to “read the signs of the times” as Pope Francis encourages us to do. Another way of saying this is “to be eager and ready to look outside and beyond ourselves.” If all we look at and see is ourselves, we find no meaning or purpose in our lives. Meaning and purpose, and consequently “hope” bring us to life, because life means growth and there can be no growth if we stay looking at ourselves and working only for our own self-interests. Life gets pretty boring with only this self-orientation. And such an orientation can only bring us LONELINESS. If we do not grow up, that is, grow out of ourselves, we die before we ever come to life. In imitation of Jesus who grew in wisdom and age by looking out and listening to the persons around Him, may we find our meaning and purpose, our hope and happiness in lives of learning and serving, teaching and witnessing God’s Word. This attitude of Mary, the catechist, was “let it be done to me as you say.” May this also be our response to the call God gives us. 

Fr. Dennet