When you watch late-night TV, you often see commercials for “miracle” products with claims so startling they seem to defy logic. And just as you are asking yourself, “How is that possible?” the announcer blurts out the phrase, “But wait! There’s more!”
In many ways, the proclamation of the gospel follows the same formula—we make a claim that seems to defy logic: namely, that eternal life in the kingdom of God is available to us now and the way to “gain” this new life is through the Cross—an instrument of death. Just as people are asking the question, “How is that possible?” we come back with “But wait! There’s more!” The Cross is not the end of the story but rather a new beginning as a result of the Resurrection!
In our catechesis, we need to be sure that we are not trying to do an “end run” around the Cross in order to get to the Resurrection. In fact, the Gospels teach us that, if we want to recognize what God “looks like”, we should look to the Cross because this is where God reveals himself most fully—in selfless love. This is the conclusion reached by the centurion who stood at the foot of the Cross and said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). The face of God is revealed to us in the midst of suffering and selfless love. To “pick up our cross daily,” then, means to die to self-centered habits and instead develop habits of selflessness.
In catechesis, this means not only talking about how to practice selfless love but also providing opportunities for young people to engage in acts of selflessness. This is where the corporal and spiritual works of mercy come into play: Church tradition identifies these as concrete strategies by which we pick up our cross daily and die to selfish tendencies.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
The Resurrection transforms selflessness from a chore to a joy by enabling us to begin reaping the fruits of the kingdom now, knowing that our destiny lies in the fulfillment of the kingdom at the end of time. We do good works not so that we can earn our own individual, personal reward but rather so our works will be multiplied by God when he renews all of the creation at the end of time. This hope, in turn, colors our approach to everything we do. In other words, for our works of mercy to be authentic, they need to be infused with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
We are most easily persuaded to purchase a product when we see verifiable results in the lives of others who have used it. In the same way, the gospel we proclaim stands a better chance of being accepted by others if they see the “verifiable” results of the Cross and Resurrection in our lives: namely, an increase in acts of selfless love performed with an attitude that reveals the Spirit’s presence. It is our task as catechists to apprentice young people into this way of life—a life that finds its meaning in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Joe Paprocki, DMIN, is the national consultant for Loyola Press. He is the author of Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox: Catechesis that Not Only Informs but Also Transforms. Joe is a sixth-grade catechist and blogs about his experience at catechistjourney.com.
This article was originally published in RTJ’s creative catechist February/March 2014.
PHOTO CREDIT:geralt, Pixabay