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Will you tell my children who Jesus is?

Bishop’s Homily Nov. 12    

The following homily was given by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Annual Diocesan Catechetical Conference, at the Sheraton Reston Hotel.

Permit me to begin with a true story, which took place in a country store in northern New York State. A priest entered the store and as he began to walk down an aisle, he caught sight of a young man, talking to a young boy. They looked up, saw the priest, and then began walking toward him. The young man, perhaps in his early thirties, looked at the priest and asked: “Father, will you tell my son Who Jesus is?” As I said, that is a true story, one I have shared in earlier homilies, so some of you may have heard it before. But, I have never forgotten that story.

Isn’t what that dad asked Father to do what so many parents ask of us, especially those of you gathered here this morning for our annual Catechetical Conference: “Will you tell my son or daughter Who Jesus is?”

Admittedly, it is the parents who are the first teachers of faith to their children, both by teaching and by example. This is the mandate given them at their children’s Baptism. Admittedly, what we do, as priests, religious, catechists, teachers and volunteers is intended to supplement, to expand, to assist parents in their primary obligation, but never to supplant it or to remove it. Yes, that is the ideal! But, again admittedly, the realistic situation we face is much different.

So, we cannot and must not refrain from doing what we do. Why? Because God is using us to fulfill the mandate of Jesus Christ given to every disciple: “Go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News.” Yes, every disciple is so commissioned at our own Baptism to evangelize and to catechize according to our proper states in the Church: the diocesan bishop as the chief catechist, the priests who are his principal coworkers, the pastors who have a major responsibility for passing on the faith to all their parishioners, the religious women and men, who likewise have a catechetical responsibility, the parents who are the first teachers of faith, and to all of you, who share in this catechetical responsibility in your parishes and in specific ministries. Yes, to you in a very particular way is that question being asked: “Will you tell my son, and daughter who Jesus is?”

You realize so fully how at the heart of catechesis is the Person of Jesus Christ. Is this not what Pope John Paul II, now a saint, taught in Catechesi Tradendae, which is repeated in the Catechism; what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his homily at his Installation as the Supreme Pontiff; what Pope Francis pointed to in The Joy of the Gospel? At the heart of catechesis there is the Person of Jesus, true God and true Man, with Whom we are called to enter into a deeply personal and intimate relationship within the visible Community of His Disciples, the Church and from Whom proceed both the essential and other important elements of the Church. To encounter the Lord Jesus in a truly real way makes all the difference in the world, in our lives, in the journey of faith. This, in fact, is what we echoed over and over in our responsorial refrain: “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.”

So, dear catechists, teachers, and volunteers, called to share in Christ’s teaching office in this specific way within our diocesan Church: yours is both a privilege and a responsibility. How privileged you are to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to announce the Joy of the Gospel, to accompany those whom the Lord entrusts to you as they walk their journey of faith! Yours also is a responsibility that often can be challenging. You teach not what your opinions are, but the teachings of the Church, whole and entire. Not all who listen to you will be pleased or accepting. You encounter the culture, which has seeped into the attitudes and minds of our people, so that they often regard Christ’s teaching as just one more opinion, but not the truth made clear through Church teaching; so that too often the dominant god in their lives and in the lives of their children is sports or some activity but not the Lord. Sacrifices of all kinds are made in those arenas, but not sacrifice to participate in Sunday Mass or in formation classes. Yes, you are tempted to give in to discouragement, to cynicism, to anger even. Hold on and cling to Jesus! Teach clearly and as down to earth as you can, because what you teach is “neither too mysterious and remote; it is very near to you” (cf. First Reading).

You need, of necessity, to make real the pattern revealed in today’s Gospel account. The Apostles were tired from their frenzied work among the people. Jesus invited them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” So, they went to a deserted place, but when they arrived, they saw a vast crowd. Jesus’ “heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” You too must find a deserted place to be renewed and refreshed, to be with Jesus! Such a “deserted place” will be the time you intentionally carve out each day, or an occasional longer time for prayer and reflection, or a retreat, or day of prayer, or this annual conference. But, at its end, the vast crowd is awaiting and because you are more and more acquiring the Heart of Jesus, you cannot but return and take up again the apostolic work of catechesis. After all, hearing St. Paul’s counsel in today’s second reading, you “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others.”

Yes, in prayer, in that “deserted place” whatever format it takes, plead with the Lord, echoing what we are praying for in this Holy Mass: “O Lord… that we may know with all our hearts what is pleasing to you and, with one accord, pursue what we have come to know.” (cf. Mass for Spiritual or Pastoral Gatherings, Collect)… “that [we] may truly understand and proclaim with confidence what is right and wholesome in your sight” (cf. Ibid., Prayer over the Offerings)… “Confirm in us our resolve to do your will and make us everywhere witnesses to your truth.” (cf. Ibid., Prayer after Communion).

Dear Catechists, Teachers and Volunteers, I thank each of you for sharing in my episcopal privilege and responsibility to teach the truth. You have been faithful and supportive these past seventeen plus years. I thank also Father deLadurantaye, your leader, mentor and guide. How blessed this diocesan church is and also her bishop to have such a man of deep faith, brilliant intellect, and pastoral skill and zeal to be among us. Father deLadurantaye, you have my unfailing gratitude and fraternal affection! You will be a treasure to Bishop Burbidge as you have been to me!

In closing do not give into discouragement. That is the Evil One’s chief tool! Rather, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus! Remember: “Will you tell my children Who Jesus is? There is no other reply than: “Yes!”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016