This Sunday, we mark Catechetical Sunday – an opportunity to celebrate, pray for and bless those men and women who use their time, their talent and their love to teach the faith.
If you think you have a good idea of who these people are, think again.
About 10 years ago, my wife and I were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. And one of the women on our trip was a new convert. She had joined the Church at Easter, just a few months before. I was curious about what led her to convert; she wasn’t married, none of her family was Catholic, and she was from the Deep South, where Catholics don’t exactly grow on trees. So on one of our long bus trips, I asked her, “What made you want to become Catholic?”
What she said surprised me – and moved me.
“It was my boss,” she said. “He’s a Catholic. And he’s one of the kindest people I know. He’s just a good, good man. I saw how he treated his family, his wife, his children, how he dealt so fairly and decently with everyone. And he was happy.” And she told me: “The more I got to know him, the more I wanted what he had.”
That’s stayed with me ever since.
“I wanted what he had.”
I’ve thought about that from time to time and wondered: would anyone ever say something like that about me?
Would my life and example ever have that kind of an impact on someone?
And this particular Sunday, I realize: whether he knew it or not, that young woman’s boss was a catechist. He was passing on the faith, teaching it, just by the way he lived.
Which brings me to my broader point: if you want to know the most important catechists in this parish, just look around you.
In fact, just look in the mirror.
Because every one of us is a catechist.
Every one of us, by virtue of our baptism, is charged with proclaiming the gospel.
Every one of us is bearing witness. We are teaching. We may not do it with a lesson plan or textbooks. We may not all explain the sacraments to children in a classroom.
But we live out the sacraments we have received in the classroom of the world.
Every one of us is teaching the faith.
So we need to ask ourselves: what am I teaching?
Am I showing compassion?
Am I modeling patience? Sacrifice? Prayer? Fidelity to the faith?
Am I teaching others how to love as Christ did?
Or, am I teaching something else?
Am I being pious on Sunday, then petty on Monday?
Am I living the faith that I received – or merely going through the motions?
As I learned from that young woman on our pilgrimage, what we choose to do, or choose not to do, can have a profound effect – on ourselves, and on those around us, in ways we might not even imagine.
St. Paul’s letter today couldn’t be more clear:
“Conduct yourselves,” he writes, “in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
In other words, make the gospel present to others. Make Christ present. As Paul puts it: “Christ will be magnified in my body.”
The writer M. Craig Barnes put it beautifully. “God is always present,” he wrote, “but not usually apparent.”
Our mission, our calling, our vocation as Catholic Christians is to make God apparent in the world. To let others see Him through us.
It’s part of our calling, as well, as members of this faith community. This weekend, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs marks the celebration of our parish feast – and the beginning of a year-long celebration of our centennial. For a century, generations called this church their spiritual home and worked to “make God apparent in the world.” And their legacy has now become ours.
The catechists we pray for this morning are a key part of that legacy – they are the ones who are most visibly passing on the faith to our children and grandchildren, sacrificing their time to hand on what they know and love. They’re helping to insure that decades from now this church will still be filled as it is today – that more voices will be raised in song, that more hearts will be lifting their prayers and petitions to God from these pews, that new members of the Body of Christ will come forward to share the Eucharistic banquet, long after we are gone.
But those teachers of the faith aren’t the only ones. It is also up to each one of us.
This Catechetical Sunday, let us recommit ourselves to our vocation as teachers of the faith – the vocation marked on each of us at our baptism.
Let us vow to proclaim the Good News, to be heralds of the gospel, to be messengers of healing and hope.
We need to strive, very simply, to make our lives examples of what it means to be a Catholic Christian:
To love without conditions. To pray without ceasing. To be compassion and mercy in a world full of desperation and fear.
In short: let us live to magnify Christ, and to make God apparent.
If we do that, who knows?
Maybe someone might one day even say of us:
“I want what they have.”