As we continue our summer series, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith, we come to strategy #5.
Strategy #5: Proclaim the Resurrection as the cause of our joy.
One of the most often-used phrases in TV commercials is, “But wait, there’s more!” Just when you think you’ve heard it all and that it can’t get any better, the seller doubles down and tells you that it’s about to get even better—beyond your wildest dreams! (“Order now, and get a second set free!”)
In our proclamation of the Gospel, we have a “But wait, there’s more!” moment: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! Just when you thought you’ve heard everything there is to hear about Jesus—his teachings, his miracles, his healings, and his laying down his life for us by dying on the Cross—you hear the Good News that he is Risen! In fact, the Resurrection of Jesus is not just one of many important details about Jesus Christ; it is the central and defining aspect of Jesus’ identity. The Resurrection is the reason Christianity happened. It is the cornerstone of our faith that Jesus Christ “suffered death and was buried and rose again on the third day,” and it is our job as catechists to make this (and him!) known to others. So, how do we proclaim the Risen Christ?
- To proclaim the Risen Lord means, first of all, that we proclaim a Person—not a set of beliefs, a memory, or a history lesson—but a living Person with whom we are invited to enter into relationship. We can teach great lessons about historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, we do not proclaim that such figures defeated death and live on in glorified bodies that enable them to continue to be present with us in a mysterious way. When we proclaim the Risen Christ, we are proclaiming a living Person who is present to us, albeit mysteriously, and who invites us into an intimate relationship. And the Christ we proclaim—no matter what part of the liturgical year we are in, including Good Friday—is always the Risen Christ.
- To proclaim the Risen Lord requires that we take time in our catechesis to invite learners to encounter and talk with him through experiences of reflective prayer. Too often, we teach as though we invite Jesus into the room and then make him sit in the corner while we talk about him! This turns him into a subject, and catechists do not teach a subject, but rather, facilitate encounters with Christ. Experiences of reflective prayer, in which people are led into a dialogue with Jesus, serve to loosen the compacted soil of people’s hearts and minds— something that can be achieved only through relationships.
- To proclaim the Risen Lord requires that we always proclaim with joy! This is not to be confused with “putting on a happy face” or being glib. When we evangelize, we lead, not with doctrine or morality, but with an attitude of joy. We can compare this to teaching someone the love of the game of baseball, something that we don’t accomplish by handing that person a rule book. We teach the love of the game by inviting one to play baseball and experience the joy of the game. Then we teach the rules. In the same way, we don’t make disciples of Christ by debating people, lecturing them, or bombarding them with apologetics. We do so by inviting them to experience the joy of encountering the Risen Christ.
- Finally, to proclaim the Risen Christ means that we accompany people who are not experiencing joy but are mired in despair. Our presence alone is the assurance that joy will return; we need not engage in happy talk as much as we need to offer simple presence and reassurance. As author and scholar N.T. Wright explains, because of the Resurrection, “A new power is let loose in the world, the power to remake what was broken, to heal what was diseased, to restore what was lost.” (Simply Jesus) To proclaim the Risen Christ means to always be proclaiming a future of hope—not of doom and gloom—since the Resurrection of Jesus Christ indicates what is in store for us if we remain faithful. To proclaim the Risen Christ means to teach and practice mercy, since the Risen Christ returned, not for revenge against those who betrayed him, but to extend mercy and forgiveness. Followers of Jesus proclaim joy, not only through words, but also through actions, primarily the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
It’s not enough to say that Jesus taught, healed, performed miracles, and died on the Cross. For Christians, we have the ultimate “but wait, there’s more!” moment: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! And, unless we are proclaiming the Risen Christ, we are not doing justice to the Gospel, since the Resurrection is the Good News.
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Be sure to check out my new book, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith.