I was interested in a recent front page article of the Singapore Catholic News, “Structure of catechesis needs to change”. Here in is the frustration that after chapter upon chapter of well delivered “religious instruction”, it has not made “our young people truly fervent Catholics”. The Archbishop said, “Our youth are being sacramentalised, not evangelised.”
Quoting the article, “Christianity is all about relationship, about belonging. ‘Unless you have a relationship with Him, there can be no catechesis … there will just be head knowledge.’”
Man and woman have continued progressing. In the times of the Old Testament, God spoke through floods and famine. Perhaps God still does. But man and woman have progressed through time and now communicate on a different wavelength. Head knowledge can reason flood and famine. People have changed, progressed intellectually and perhaps also spiritually. And so we must change our methods of teaching to communicate about God and our faith.
Yesterday’s tourist posing in front of a prominent landmark has become today’s traveller sipping the local flavour in some back alley café. Knowledge must today be enhanced by experiences, otherwise it remains just a picture. A friend recently debated about our education. We teach a lot of algebra and math but we do not teach the young how to manage money in life. We pass on head knowledge without passing on lifestyle skills. We call for change.
Christianity is also a lifestyle; every doctrine is to guide us to live this lifestyle of love for God and for others. If doctrine stands alone, it leads only to sacramentalisation. But love is not a chapter but an experience. And only when knowledge is coupled with encounters with God will it lead to evangelisation.
“Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will. You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear.” (Today’s Psalm).
This is a call not only to catechists. It is actually tough to expect them to make disciples. They have only one hour on a Sunday morning. This psalm is a call to every one of us to become a catechist of life. We all have our personal life experiences, good and bad, joyful and sad. In all of these experiences we must ask ourselves if we encountered God. If we did we need to share our experiences to make God real in the reality of people’s life. Sharing or testifying enhances knowledge. It gives life to doctrine. It evangelises.
Sharing of personal life experiences and encounters with God is the new curriculum for today. It is in the chapters of our life story where we find Jesus. In each episode of life we must be like John the Baptist to point out, “Look there is the Lamb of God”. In our gratitude for who we are today we must testify, “Yes I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God”. (Today’s Gospel). Without this we cannot evangelise.
The Catholic Church has actually been wise to this. RCIA was born out of Vatican II. RCIA was to replace the old catechism method of forming Christians; this old method of drumming knowledge alone. If we take a closer look at RCIA it is modelled as a community of learning, sharing and testifying. Somewhere along our timeline, in our pride of possessing knowledge, some of us missed it.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time