We continue our series exploring six keys to making our faith formation experiences more evangelizing by focusing on key #3, which is Tradition.
When we form relationships with other people, we ask them to reveal things about themselves (as we do about ourselves)—where they were born, what kind of work they do, what their hobbies are, what kind of family they have, what kind of music, sports, or other forms of entertainment they enjoy most, and so on. We also watch their actions closely to see if they match their words. In other words, relationships just don’t happen in a vacuum; they are grounded in concrete words and actions.
If you were to ask me to tell you about my wife, Joanne, to whom I’ve been married since 1982, and I had trouble telling you about her likes, dislikes, dreams, joys, fears, hopes, accomplishments, favorite things, or even her height, eye color, or hair color, you would wonder if we indeed have a true relationship. When we love people, we should be able to talk about them.
It is absolutely crucial when we invite others to encounter Jesus that we help them to know specifics about him: his words, his actions, his message, his vision, and his story. Jesus, like his Father, has revealed himself to us in concrete ways in human history. If our faith formation is to be truly evangelizing, we need to help those we teach to talk about the One who loves them and whom they hope to love more deeply. Truly evangelizing faith formation is not light on content! In fact, the more we get to know about Jesus, the more it helps us get to know him, and the more we get to know him, the more we want to know about him.
For Catholics, the content of our faith flows from and is contained in Scripture and Tradition, which make up one single deposit of faith. Tradition, in this sense, is not referring to doing something the same way each time, such as a family tradition of making certain foods each year for Christmas dinner. Rather, Tradition with a capital T refers to our heritage, our story, and our teachings as revealed by God and entrusted to the Church. It is our job as catechists to ensure that those we teach are growing in their ability to articulate this Tradition, which conveys who Jesus is and what he is all about. At the very least, we need to help others articulate the core of that Tradition: the kerygma, which means that we need to help others explain briefly how Jesus is all about rescue, restoration, and reassurance and how he accomplished those three things in the Gospels and how he accomplishes those things in our lives.
As catechists, we need to think of ourselves as campaign managers for a candidate—Jesus—to whom we are fully and totally committed. We must be able to talk about this candidate with knowledge and with specifics if we are to invite others to embrace Jesus. We are also responsible for recruiting and training others to do the same, thus creating an army of campaign workers who will pound the pavement and invite others to get to know our candidate as we do. When someone asks us or one of our “army” what our candidate’s experience and vision is, we need to be able to answer knowledgably.
True evangelization proclaims a Person—Jesus Christ—who is known through concrete words and actions. This means that evangelizing faith formation does not shy away from transmitting content (information) about Jesus as long as it is done within a context of encounter (transformation).
Achieve a more evangelizing faith formation experience for young people with Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts.