‘Christ has no body on this earth but yours
No hands but yours
No feet but yours
Yours are the eyes with which he looks on the world with compassion
Yours the feet with which he walks doing good
Yours the hands he now has to bless us.”
– St. Theresa of Avila
We’ve all had those experiences when we have encountered another person and have grown through the encounter. I remember when I was in high school and my family moved from Boston to St. Louis. Beginning my junior year in a new place and a new, very large school was a bit overwhelming to say the least. It was in this difficult situation that I encountered a group of Mount St. Joseph Ursuline Sisters* at St. Angela Merici Parish in Florissant, Mo. I had never met anyone like these sisters. They were young, alive and engaging and what I experienced with them was a depth of joy that changed the direction of my life.
On Aug. 26, catechists from around the diocese gathered for the annual Catechist Formation Day. The day was enriching with Joe Paprocki as the keynote speaker and many other breakout sessions facilitated by presenters from around the diocese. The focus was Encountering Christ in Scripture. Together catechists revisited the Bible as revelation—revealing God through Jesus Christ. In addition to valuable information from the sessions, so many remarked on the Spirit of joy and new life that comes when we encounter Christ with one another. The day was a powerful testament to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). You could feel Christ’s presence in those gathered.
As catechists and as people of faith, before we can evangelize or catechize, we are called to encounter God in our midst. We are called to relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. We read and pray the Scriptures in a particular context and in a time like no other. The world we live in is very different than the world in which we grew up. The Catechetical Sunday theme, the theme for the V Encuentro, and the challenge from Pope Francis is that we become missionary disciples. We can only become missionary disciples if we encounter Christ in such a way that our story melds with the Story of faith as found in Scripture and the experience of the community (Sacred Tradition).
As she grew older, Barbara Streisand, said that she could not sing the songs that made her famous in the same way as she did in the past. This was, she explained, because her experiences, the context in which she was living and her life were not the same as when she first sang those songs. The world was a different place, and the words of the song took on a different meaning, energy and response. It is the same way with Scripture. We read Scripture –the encounters of Abraham, Moses, David, women and men with Jesus, the apostles and disciples—with the lens of our times and the response required at this particular time in history.
Catechists look for ways for learners to experience an encounter with Jesus Christ. This is fed by the catechist’s own continual journey with Christ. Catechesis is a living and dynamic encounter with the Word of God and Tradition. We thank God for the generosity of those who respond to the call to be catechists and the call each of us has to be missionary disciples.
This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 17. The 2017 theme is "Living as Missionary Disciples." Those whom the Community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith.