We continue with our series exploring six keys to making our faith formation experiences more evangelizing by focusing on key #5: experiences of sharing God’s mercy.
Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead. (James 2:14–17) Likewise, Jesus’ Parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25) tells us that we will be judged on our love for others. If we truly want to touch the hearts and minds of those we teach, we need to engage them in works of mercy and doing service for others, because that is the very heart of the Gospel: laying down our lives for others through acts of selfless love.
Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles has emphasized that one of the critical ways that we can and must engage young people is through participation in works of social justice. He has repeatedly said that the Church should lead with its social justice work, inviting young people to participate in actions that enable them to care for those in need, such as working in a soup kitchen, participating in prison ministry, or helping the homeless. He adds that we can then catechize our young people about Catholic Social Teaching.
In speaking to the U.S. Catholic bishops several years ago, Bishop Barron identified five paths for bringing the unaffiliated back to the Church and began with the notion of involving young people in social justice and works of mercy. “We have a very powerful tradition around doing the works of justice, and young people like it,” Bishop Barron said. “I think we should lead with it.” He said that studies reveal that the more involved young people are in such works, the more attached they are to the life of the Church.
What does this mean for our faith formation programs? It means that service projects should not just be a hoop that Confirmation candidates jump through to “qualify” for the sacrament. It means that involving all our young people and all participants in our RCIA processes in meaningful works of mercy and social justice must be a part of the curriculum at every age level. In other words, we need to do much more than talk about love of neighbor; we must apprentice our young people in works that enable them to put the Gospel into action. And apprenticeships are characterized by doing!
Achieve a more evangelizing faith formation experience for young people with Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts.