Fruitful catechesis: Healing mission and the New Evangelization
Rationale and Reflection on the Proposed Theme
Worldwide, the Year 2020 presents unimaginable complex challenges brought about by the Corona Virus Infectious Disease, known as “COVID-19” pandemic. In the Philippines, one vibrant part of everyday life that has been most affected is our religious practices as Catholics around the country. Yet despite the closing of our churches and postponements of the conduct of traditional sacraments and rituals, we, the Filipino Catholics, with the openness and creativity of our parish communities and use of information technologies and social media, our expressions and spirituality of Catholicism remained present and strong amidst this pandemic.
Thus, for this year 2020, our National Catechetical Month celebrates “fruitful catechesis” signifying the fundamental lessons of our Catholic faith, which bear its most precious fruits during the times of crises. These catechetical fruits bring forth the missionary character of how our Catholic faith heals, and how this faith shepherds us in becoming witnesses of the new evangelization.
With this in mind, we cull our Catechetical Month’s theme from Chapter X, Catechesis in the Face of Contemporary Cultural Scenarios, of the New Directory for Catechesis (2020) released by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. The chapter describes Catechesis in (a) situations of pluralism and complexity; (b) the context of ecumenism and religious pluralism; and (c) socio-cultural context. Our theme reflects the current year’s focus in our nine-year era of New Evangelization dedicated to Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples.
Without God revealing Himself, man cannot know God. God always takes the initiative, not only with regards to salvation, but with regards to everything else in our lives. The faith, which is man’s response to what God has revealed (CCC, 26) must be reactivated “among men and render it conscious and fruitful by means of opportune instruction” (Christus Dominus, 14) through catechesis. From the early history of the Church, the name given to the total process of making disciples and imparting the teaching of God’s Word has been “catechesis” (CCC, 4-5).
When Jesus commissioned the Apostles as His emissaries: “go… and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20), His concern is not only the unique apostolic ministry but also the Church’s fundamental mission to make disciples of all the nations. The essence of the Church’s mission, then, is to catechize all peoples. It is necessary for catechesis to remember this implication because faith, the beginning of salvation and participation in the life of the Trinity, “comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).
We, Catholic Christians, who by means of catechesis, grew, and formed by this faith, despite economic instabilities and political uncertainties in this time of global pandemic, derive meanings in our lives marked by a deep sense of spirituality. We, who search and find positive meaning on what is happening in the world, prevail and thrive because our Catholic faith sustains us. Faith lifts us up and keeps us hoping a better tomorrow is coming, enabling us to place ourselves in the holy hands of the divine Providence. We heed the words of Corrie ten Boom, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Through catechesis, we, Catholic Christians find comfort in suffering by understanding that Jesus of Nazareth was also born into a world of illness. Effective and fruitful catechesis through efficient missionary endeavors (Directory for Catechesis 2020, 277) enable us to go into the depths of our innermost selves and appreciate praying to Someone who understands us not only because He is divine and knows all things, but because He is human and experienced all things except sin (Heb 4:15). He is a model for how we are to care during this crisis: with hearts moved by pity like in the Gospels (Mt 9:36; Mk 6:34). The fruits of this missionary endeavor call for responsibility to make us one – in loving, sharing, and caring for the others in this most trying times. This is the time when we learn to trust that we will heal, and that in the process of healing, we become missionaries of faith, hope, and love.
Everyone indeed is called to conversion in this time of pandemic (CBCP Pastoral Letter and a Call to Prayer, July 16, 2020). This means rooting out one’s selfishness, greed, resisting hatred and violence for we are interconnected. Catechesis indubitably has its ecumenical dimension which can only be done if it creates and fosters a true desire for unity. “Catechesis cannot remain aloof from this ecumenical dimension, since all the faithful are called to share, according to their capacity and place in the Church, in the movement towards unity” (Ad Gentes, 15). While not ceasing to teach the fullness of the revealed truths, we give high premium on sincerity and respect in words and deeds in our engagements with members of communities not in perfect communion with the Catholic Church (cf Unitatis Redintegratio, 3-4).
Catechesi Tradendae emphasized that “no one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience” (CT, 20), that is to say, without an adequate explanation of the message of Christ, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6). Catechesis is one of these moments – a very remarkable one – in the whole process of evangelization (CT, 18).
We unceasingly commit ourselves to what New Evangelization summons us to do. Amidst the global health concern that continuously puts us into strict home quarantine and lockdowns that put to a halt even our most cherished catechetical apostolate and ministry in parishes and schools, we continue to celebrate our Catechetical Month.
We still set our hearts to the celebration of the 500th Year of Catholic Christianity in our country. This will begin on Easter Sunday on April 17, 2022, opening of the National Mission Congress until its last day on April 22, 2022. In the coming months, we choose to be productive in our catechetical endeavors amidst the pandemic through the local initiatives of various Ecclesiastical Territories in ensuring that the works of catechesis continue in whatever creative way possible. We also look forward to some research-based intervention activities that will be implemented as fruits of the study findings from our National Catechetical Study 2021: Pastoral Action Research and Intervention (PARI) Project. All these towards a more effective and fruitful catechetical ministry in our Catholic Church.
Let us remain faithful in our catechetical ministry. Let us embrace our being missionaries of and for Jesus and Mary. Let we all be healed and become missionaries doing fruitful catechesis for new evangelization.
Stay healthy with the Bread of Life. Keep safe in Jesus’ Love.Rev. Fr. Ernesto B. De Leon
CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Catechesis & Catholic Education (ECCCE)
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