Welcome to Week 4 of our Online Catechist’s Retreat (The Spirituality of the Catechist) as we take a look at the third characteristic of our spirituality: An Openness to the World.
Thanks so much for insights posted last week on the theme of our openness to the Church! It is so enjoyable and enriching to read your thoughts and to converse with you. If you’re just joining us, you can go back and “catch up” and then come back to jump in to week four.
As we do each week, I invite you to begin this week by viewing the following brief video introduction on the theme of An Openness to the World.
An Openness to the World
Sheep, fishing nets, pearls, coins, buried treasures, wine, wineskins, yeast, mustard seeds, fig trees, vineyards, tenants, banquets, etc.
These are just a few of the images that Jesus used when he taught. They are images that were familiar to Jesus’ audience. Jesus spoke in such a way that he was able to capture the imagination of the crowds – speaking to their everyday experiences to help them find God in all things.
Ipod, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, gigabytes, texting, webinars, bandwidth, Bluetooth, download, DVD, Blu-Ray, eBay, Google, GPS, MP3, etc.
Do any of the above words mean anything to you? For many of us, these words may seem like a foreign language. To the young people we teach, however, they are part of their everyday vocabulary!
No doubt, if Jesus were preaching to crowds today, telling them parables, he would draw from images that are current, everyday images. As catechists, we are called to teach as Jesus did. This means that, just as Jesus had an openness to the world in which he lived, we too are called to have a spirituality that is characterized by an openness to the world.
From his humble beginnings, Jesus showed an openness to the world. The Incarnation is an example of profound openness to the world. God did not disdain the mundaneness of this world but rather, he “so loved that world that he sent his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
Jesus was sinless, yet, he entered into the Jordan River to be baptized with sinners. He did not need forgivness, but he chose to stand shoulder to shoulder with sinners.
In Jesus’ time, it was customary for Jews who were traveling betweem Judea and Galilee to avoid passing through Samaria. John 4:4, however, tells us that Jesus did no such thing: “He had to pass through Samaria.” He had to? The only reason he had to pass through Samaria was because it was part of his mission.
Now THAT’S openness to the world. Jesus himself did not flee from the world. Rather, he plunged headlong into the ordinariness of life in order to reveal the extraordinary presence of God there. Jesus did not tell his followers to run and hide or to separate from society. Rather, he said, “Go!”
That same commission comes to us. As catechists, we are sent forth into the world. Or, perhaps I should say, the world comes to us! Each time we teach, we are called to enter into the world of those we teach. We may not fully understand “their world.” We may not approve of everything that is happening in “their world.” However, we must not think that somehow God is more present in “our world.” Our task is to enter into their world and to help them uncover and recognize the God who is already there.
I have never traveled to a foreign country where English is NOT the primary language. I believe that anyone who does so is participating in a profound conversion experience: to let go of your own language and seek to comprehend the language of another is profoundly challenging. And yet, when you are able to do so, new experiences become possible.
Quite often, those we teach “speak a different language.” In some cases, that is literally true! In most cases, it is metaphorically true. Being open to the world means learning to speak the language of those we teach. In doing so, we become capable of doing what St. Ignatius of Loyola taught his catechists to do: “enter through their door, but be sure to leave through your door.”
During this week, let’s pray for ourselves and for one another that we may have a true openness to the world – not disdaining it, but entering into it as Jesus did so that we can help others recognize God in their midst.
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Week Four Reflection Questions (click here for week-4-reflection-questions) – over the next few days, feel free to ponder these reflection questions pertaining to this week’s theme. Then, return here to Catechist’s Journey and share some of your reflections with your fellow retreatants.
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For Further Reflection: Read the Preface and Introductory Statement of Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Consititution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council.
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Spiritual Exercises – During the course of this week, practice one or more of the following spiritual exercises designed to deepen your openness to the world. Feel free to share the fruits of your exercises with your fellow retreatants by posting your comments any time this week.
- Spend this week praying with the daily news (whether you receive that through the TV, newspaper, Internet, or Twitter!). Scan the news to observe what is going on: events, trends, tragedies, triumphs, and so on. Then, bring these all to prayer. Ask God to help you recognize the needs of the world. Ask for the grace to see how you can bring the current experiences of the world into dialogue with the Gospel in your catechesis.
- Spend this week in the “shoes” of those you teach…as far as your prayer goes. Try to get into the mindset of those you teach. What are they concerned about? What worries do they have? What joys are they experiencing? What events are taking place in their lives? What needs and desires do they have? Bring all of these to prayer, asking the Lord to help you know the minds and hearts of those you teach and to be sensitive to their needs.
- The early disciples of Christ prayed for the courage to venture into new territories – lands they had never before visited – in order to bring the Word of God to others. Pray this week for the courage to enter into new “territories” – perhaps you can venture into some new technology that your learners are familiar with. Take some time to explore “places” like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and other popular social networking sites. Pray for the courage to better understand these new places, not in order to become proficient in using them, but to simply be aware of what your learners are finding there.
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Recommended Reading on the Topic of Openness to the World:
Movies That Matter: Reading Film Through the Lens of Faith (Richard Leonard, SJ)
They Came Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees (Gary Smith, SJ)
Radical Compassion: Finding Christ in the Heart of the Poor (Gary Smith SJ
In All Things: Everyday Prayers of Jesuit High School Students (Michael J. Daley and Lee P Yeazell)
Youth Culture 101 (Walt Mueller)