Love of Jesus or Knowledge (Church Teaching)?

Is it the love of Jesus that matters most to convey to this generation?  Is it to pass on what the Catechism says so they will “know” their faith?  Those in ministry have clear opinions about these questions.  Sometimes people say the content gets in the way of helping children, youth and adults encounter Jesus and know His love. Others assert “if they only knew the content they would live their faith better”.

Pope Paul VI was the first pope in history to talk about catechesis as being a means to evangelization (Evangelii Nuntiandi #44).  We are familiar to the notion of evangelization preceding catechesis but Paul VI saw catechesis being a means of evangelizing, of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and abundant life.

As catechists and disciples of Christ our goal should be to bring about both a greater understanding and knowledge of the faith so that a greater love and acceptance of the Good News will be embraced and lived in the lives of those who receive it.  Our catechesis must be evangelistic in nature so that it is not merely “doctrine” that we are passing on but “life changing doctrine”.

Both Are Essential

The answer is both the love of Jesus and the knowledge of God plan of salvation (doctrine) are key to handing on the Faith.  Before Vatican II the emphasis tended to be placed on memorizing the content of the faith at the cost of the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love and Mercy.  After Vatican II the pendulum went the other way and the emphasis was on proclaiming the love of God and his great mercy and minimizing the content and the importance of knowing/learning it.  What we need is to unify the two by understanding that we are catechizing and proclaiming this life changing doctrine so as to draw the learning into a life-giving relationship with Jesus. Blessed John Paul II said it very well in Catechesi Tradendae when he said:

Catechesis aims therefore at developing understanding of the mystery of Christ in the light of God’s word, so that the whole of a person’s humanity is impregnated by that word. Changed by the working of grace into a new creature, the Christian thus sets himself to follow Christ and learns more and more within the Church to think like Him, to judge like Him, to act in conformity with His commandments, and to hope as He invites us to.

To put it more precisely: within the whole process of evangelization, the aim of catechesis is to be the teaching and maturation stage, that is to say, the period in which the Christian, having accepted by faith the person of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and having given Him complete adherence by sincere conversion of heart, endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself: to know His “mystery,” the kingdom of God proclaimed by Him, the requirements and promises contained in His Gospel message, and the paths that He has laid down for anyone who wishes to follow Him. (Paragraph 20)

The understanding of doctrine and the goal of bringing about a change (conversion) is the “aim of catechesis”.  Today we need both in order to authentically pass on the deposit of faith and all its riches.

Catechetical Takeaway

A few ideas on how to accomplish this are worth considering.

1) Always open your catechetical sessions in prayer – prayer that helps draw others into the Mystery of Christ.

2) Share the topic of the day with enthusiasm and with conviction.  This will be noticed and those receiving it will be more inclined to be drawn into what you are proclaiming and sharing.

3)  Pray to the Holy Spirit (The Holy Spirit is the interior teacher).  Catechists are the instrument, the conduit, the mouthpiece helping others to know and love Christ.

4) Be faithful to proclaiming the Church’s teachings.  Proclaiming this life changing doctrine will lead others to the love of God and to encounter Him more fully.

How do you see catechesis being a means of evangelization?

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