Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults (Sirach 28:7).
The third Sunday of September has been set aside by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as Catechetical Sunday. In many parishes, it is the weekend that Catholic youth religious education programs, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and other adult education programs begin for another year. It is an exciting time in ministry. Parishes have the opportunity to form their people in the Catholic faith.
Second to the celebrations of the sacraments, there is nothing more important. The quote above from the reading from Sirach sums up the goals of Catholic education: think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor, remember God’s sacred covenant, and “overlook faults” or be patient with others. These are four great themes for Catholic education.
The commandments and the covenant are closely linked. The covenant is God’s sacred promise to His people: He will be their God; they will be His people. God will love them unconditionally. They will follow God unreservedly by obeying God’s commandments, most notably the Ten Commandments given to Moses. The covenant was sealed forever in the blood of Jesus Christ, the final Lamb of sacrifice.
Jesus is the Word made flesh whose passion, death and resurrection together form the defining moment of God’s love for His people. The Eucharist is the memorial of and our participation in the covenant of Jesus Christ.
It is imperative that our religious education programs at every level teach this message of God’s covenant and commandments. Our youth especially need to know that God loves them. How do we teach that? We help them realize that God created them in His image and likeness and that He has given each of them talents, gifts and abilities that they are to share with the world.
We respond to God’s love in following His commandments and living the life He has placed before us. We teach that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith and of our living of the covenant.
Loving one’s neighbor and patience with others are also important themes of Catholic education, for Jesus taught that faith cannot stay bottled up within the person but must reach out in love and service. Faith has an effect on every part of our lives. Upholding the dignity of all human life is an important aspect of what it means to be Christian. Treating others with dignity and respect is integral to Jesus’ message.
Overlooking others’ faults through developing patience is also part of what Jesus taught and necessary to living and working with others.
Teaching these themes and their connection to faith is a priority in Catholic education. Through His parables, healings and teaching moments, Jesus continually calls upon His disciples to look beyond themselves to the needs of others.
Connecting our youth to community service opportunities is one way of showing them the need to help others. However, community service must be connected to the Eucharist and one’s relationship with the Lord.
The covenant, commandments, loving one’s neighbor and patience with others are all important themes of Catholic religious education. As another year begins, let’s all pray for those who take up the work of teaching religious education at any level.
From personal experience, I know it to be one of the most important and rewarding ministries of the Church. Through it, we are handing on the Gospel, and thus we “make disciples of all nations” which Jesus asked us to do.
Originally published in the fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine. To receive the magazine at your home, donate $24 or more to the Bishop's Annual Appeal at bishopsappealvt.org/give.
- Published in Contributors