It all begins again. It is the season when our parishes and schools become places of catechesis, places of dynamic evangelization. Yes, September calls us to think seriously about our faith, how we learn about it and how we teach and share it.
Pope Francis has reminded us that as baptized Catholics, we are all catechists and evangelists. In “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), #119, he states, “In all the baptized, from the first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. The people of God are holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo. This means that it does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith. The Spirit guides it in truth and leads it to salvation. As a part of His mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidie – which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians certain connaturality with divine realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.”
As baptized Catholics, we are always encouraged to learn about our faith, but above all, we are called to trust that the Holy Spirit will use what we know – no matter how much or how little – to give witness to the life of Jesus Christ that is at work within us.
This witness begins in the authentic simplicity of goodwill and kindness shown to all people. It is this unconditional mercy and compassion that is called Pre-Evangelization. It comes from St. Paul’s admonition that we as Christians live gentle and peaceful lives among all people. This gentleness and peacefulness when directed by the Holy Spirit will be an invitation to those around us – co-workers, acquaintances, friends, immediate family members and even members of our parish community – who have not yet been evangelized to ask, “What sustains in you this gentle spirit, this peacefulness? What gives you an ability to be patient in trial, to endure joyfully?” Your answer will always be Jesus Christ. They will seek more of an explanation. That is when you will proclaim the Gospel.
Catechesis follows. It is the telling of the factual connection between Jesus and you. It is what we teach our children in the catechetical classes in our parishes and in our schools. We teach what Jesus has meant to the Church, to us, and to the world redeemed by the infinite love of God that is Jesus Christ. We teach how this came about and what it unfolds before us in our Creed, in just what we believe.
After this time of fact-finding and telling, it is the Spirit’s turn to take over and walk with you and the one you have evangelized. This is the time of Mystagogy, a time in which through circumstances and experiences, you and the one you have evangelized will see the wonder of God manifest through service, worship, shared conversation and continued learning. The Holy Spirit will take over and reveal his grace and power and confirm God’s work.
We are ever learners of the faith, keepers of its most precious prize, which is the Good News of Jesus Christ. But above all, we are all catechists, tellers of the truth. of Jesus Christ to all we meet in family and on the street, in the workplace and in our daily conversation; we are called to witness the Good News of God’s love at work in our lives.
Franciscan Father Gabriel J. Zeis is diocesan vicar for Catholic education.