Catechetical Sunday, with its 2017 theme of “Living as Missionary Disciples,” is a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on why we do the challenging work of catechesis. How do we live as missionary disciples?
When I hear the word missionary, I think of a priest sailing to some far away and foreign land to preach the Gospel, armed only with his crucifix and his conviction. We might think that the call to be a missionary is a special calling meant only for a few hardy souls; we might be tempted to think, “Oh, I could never do that! Surely God is not calling me to be a missionary!” Yet that is exactly what God is calling us to be. Our mission field is not a remote village in the Amazon rainforest, but a classroom. We share the Gospel not with people who have never heard of Jesus Christ, but with apathetic sixth graders or second graders preparing for the sacraments.
On the other hand, discipleship often calls to mind something comfortable and easy. We grew up hearing that a disciple is a friend of Jesus. “Oh, yes,” we might think, “I am a disciple. I love Jesus. I go to church every Sunday. I pray. I listen to Jesus’ teachings.” But when we stop and look at what Jesus actually required of his friends, discipleship takes on a whole new meaning. Have we really “dropped our nets” and left everything behind to follow Jesus, just as St. Peter did? Are we really people of hope in the face of suffering and persecution? Do we show the children in our classrooms how to love Jesus, or do we simply have them memorize facts? Are we more interested in meeting curriculum standards than helping children meet a person?
We simply cannot be a missionary without being a disciple. If we want to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we must have our own intimate relationship with Jesus. Similarly, we cannot be a disciple without being a missionary. Our relationship with Jesus propels us to share his love with others. There is no such thing as a static disciple. Our joy at knowing Jesus bursts forth in service, using whatever gifts God has given us. A missionary disciple is someone who loves Jesus and just can’t contain that love.
What does this mean for catechists?
In the perfect parish, each and every catechist would be so on fire with love for Christ that they would spark a fire for him in the hearts of every child and family they serve. However, we do not live in a perfect world. We are all in different stages of our faith journey; everyone has a unique relationship with Jesus. I have seen individuals who become catechists simply because they volunteer for everything; through service they find a love for Jesus that they never imagined. I have also seen people become catechists because they are “good Catholics,” but do not have an intimate relationship with Jesus of their own. What they teach makes no difference in the lives of the children, because it makes very little difference in their own.
No matter where we are on our journey of faith, we have been called to be missionary disciples. Rooted and empowered by our loving relationship with Christ, and trusting that he will provide us all that we need, we can share his love in whatever mission field he sends us.
How do you see yourself as a missionary disciple? When did you notice that catechesis became your vocation? When did you realize that you were in this ministry not for you or the children you serve, but for Christ?
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