by Margaret Matijasevic
As catechists, the essence of our vocation is to echo the word of God through the life we live and the teachings we prepare. In this season of Advent, there is a unique call for all catechists. We are called to prepare our own hearts and lives for Christ’s birth and beyond in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The First Sunday of Advent, the Gospel says, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
As we enter the Year of Mercy we can reflect on what it means to be merciful. Mercy is extended from the deepest part of our vulnerability. It is only in our recognition of this vulnerability that we can truly enter a state of merciful compassion and presence before Christ.
As a catechist, where in your life might you need to be more attentive to receiving and extending God’s mercy? How might your attentiveness in your own life invite others to the same call? As the Gospel states, to enter into such a prayerful vigilance does not come without tribulations, but it is in that authentic standing before Christ that mercy is experienced and shared.
In the Second Sunday of Advent, we hear of John going out and “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).
As catechists, the ability to accept mercy in our own lives allows us to extend it more freely to others. We can live in solidarity with the pain of others who seek repentance.
Where in your own life have you resisted God’s mercy? What about your life requires a repentance that is open to God’s love and forgiveness? Offer up in prayer this season one area of your life that might need God’s loving mercy. Ask for the ability to extend such mercy to others in thanksgiving of your receiving of it through the very birth of Christ.
The Third Sunday of Advent highlights the reflections of John the Baptist: “The crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’ He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:10-14).
This week’s Gospel may not seem challenging for the Advent season, as extending gifts to others is of common practice, but it is the depth of the giving and the living that this Gospel invites us to consider.
As we extend our extra tunic or food to those who don’t have anything, how can we view their life stories with extended merciful actions? Would these invitations be ones that invite us not to judge another’s story when providing a gift for the poor? How is the mutuality of the relationship of the giver and receiver important to experience the essence of mercy? Do I just give my tunic, or do I give my tunic with the desire to be present to another pilgrim on the journey of life?
The Fourth Sunday of Advent, we learn of Mary visiting Elizabeth. In this story, there is an opportunity for us to experience the authentic encounter with another person. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). This Advent season, our extension of mercy and presence should be just as joyful.
In encountering others, greeting them, and entering into their lives, the catechist has a unique vocation, which is “to echo” the word of God. It is in our living out of this vocation that others experience Christ’s presence in their own lives. How might the story of Mary and Elizabeth be an invitation for the catechist to provide joy to another? To visit the poor, elderly, prisoner, or the relative that has been out of touch? How can we be joyful when we give of our time and our very selves?
Preparing for Jesus this Advent will require us to be vigilant to how Christ presents himself in our lives through the unexpected gifts of merciful actions. This Advent season Christ is preparing our hearts for new life at Christmas, and as catechists it is our vocational call to be co-journeyers with others towards such new life. Be vigilant to the constant invitation to a deeper relationship with Christ through a vulnerable expression of mercy this Advent season, and discover what the birth of Christ offers to the world.
Margaret Matijasevic is the executive director for the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. She holds a MA in Pastoral Studies from Loyola Marymount University. She is a mother of two spirit-filled children.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, March 2015.
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