Jubilee for Catechists – “Announcing the Mercy of God”
With the decision to celebrate an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we receive a glimpse of something which is of paramount importance to our Holy Father – the mercy of God. In the midst of this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has named other jubilees. One which resonates with me in a particular way is the one celebrated today: the Jubilee of Catechists.
“Who are catechists?” Pope Francis asks. “They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others.” Catechists are not only those who facilitate the faith development of our children. They are the folks we encounter every day who show us through their actions that God’s bountiful love and compassion is present in our world. “The contemporary world listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if it does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses,” Pope Paul VI told us in 1975. In the forty plus years since we heard that first proclaimed, very little has changed. It is still the actions of people, more than their words, that move us, that form us, that heal us.
“The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person.” (MV #12) Think of people who are announcing the mercy of God to you. Is it their words which does that? Is it the way they live their lives? With deep appreciation I note the hundreds of folks in our Christian communities who have accepted the invitation to play a formal role in the ministry of the catechist – those who work with our children, who prepare couples for marriage, who prepare parents for the baptism of their children, who accompany adults and children who seek initiation into the Roman Catholic faith.
And I remember with thankfulness and affection the multitudes of people who have shown me over and over again the unconditional love and mercy of God – my parents and grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my siblings, my husband, my children, my friends, my colleagues – ordinary people, living ordinary lives with grace in times of trail and pain, joy in times of hope and promise. The many whom God has put in my life to offer a hand of friendship and love so that my life is full and blessed; the many who live with courage in illness, with dignity in poverty and financial hardship; the many who challenge me to look at situations with a different lens; the many who have a much broader view of neighbour than my own; the many who teach me, encourage me and occasionally force me, to be all that God means me to be. Sometimes this is by their words, and frequently it through how they live. In all cases, those who are deliberate in their ministry of catechist and those who are simply being who they are, have shown me over and over again, who God is. In that, they are catechists.
Pope Francis says that “on the lips of the catechist, the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ This first proclamation is called ‘first’ … because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.” (EG #164)
So many people have entered my life, for a short time, or a long one, all placed there by a God who loves me, and is with me always … and on this Sunday, I think of them, and am filled with love and gratitude.