In his book, Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde (who left the Communist Party in 1948 and became Catholic) explains that young people were attracted to Communism, not by information in pamphlets, but by seeing party members in action and by admiring what they were doing on behalf of people’s real needs and real problems. He adds, “Quite deliberately, and with good reason, the party sends its new members, whenever possible, into some form of public activity before instruction begins.” The invitation was not to learn an ideology, but to practice a new way of living.
All too often, our catechetical efforts focus solely on the acquisition of information instead of communicating an invitation to practice a new way of living. Jesus did not form his disciples for three years and then put them to work. He formed them as they were being put to work. The Gospel of Mark tells us that no sooner had Jesus called the twelve than he “sent them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14).
In the same way, we must be about the business of “sending forth” those we catechize to begin participating in the mission into which they have been baptized. We make a mistake by thinking that young people need to be confirmed in order to fully participate in the Church’s mission. Rather, by virtue of their baptism, they have been given a share in Jesus’ ministry as priest, prophet, and king. What does this mean in practical terms? It means that, in daily living, we are called to do the following:
As priest: make Jesus present to others, praise and worship God through our lives, offer ourselves and our lives in sacrifice, help others to gain access to God, intercede for the needs of the world, and act as part of God’s response to those needs, helping others find God through us.
As king: serve and protect the vulnerable, provide for those unable to provide for themselves, love enemies, lay down our lives for others, work for justice, live with dignity, respect others’ dignity, restore lives that are broken, represent God’s will, and protect our world and all of God’s creation.
Jesus doesn’t invite us to simply get close to God and to admire him from a distance. He invites us to enter into the very life of God and to experience the divine life from within the Trinity. The invitation to live the Christian life is not to stand outside of God’s kingdom throwing pebbles at the windows to get God’s attention in order to talk to him from a distance. Rather, it is an invitation to communion with God-to experience the divine life firsthand.
To admire Jesus from a distance is to misunderstand what he desires of us. Ultimately, Jesus is to be known on an intimate basis. Jesus did not ask Peter, “Do you have sufficient knowledge of all that I have said and done?” Instead, he asks him, “Do you love me?”—a question that probes the deepest connection between human beings. Jesus does not desire fans who cheer on the sidelines; he desires friends who will roll up their sleeves and work shoulder-to-shoulder with him as apprentices, sharing in his task of building the kingdom of God. To truly encounter Christ is to experience an invitation to another way of being human-viewed from within the mind of Christ.
Joe Paprocki, DMIN, is the national consultant for faith formation for Loyola Press. He is the author of Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox: Catechesis that Not Only Informs but Also Transforms. Joe is a 6th-grade catechist and blogs about his experience at catechistjourney.com.
This article was originally published in RTJ’s creative catechist January 2014.
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