Whose Responsible For the Religious Education of Our Children?

Here I share my homily from Sunday about how we learn about our faith.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Isaiah 50:4-9a
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35
September 16, 2012

Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?”  Before this point, he has been doing miracles and preaching to people.  So, he asks this question to talk about where the people are at in understanding who he really is.

The answers are “John the Baptist, other Elijah, still others on the prophets.”  These answers indicate that the people are recognizing that Jesus has a great role to play but they haven’t fully grasped this. 

Then Jesus asks the disciples themselves “But who do you say that I am?”

The disciples have been accompanying Jesus, seeing his miracles, and hearing his preaching.  By this point, the Twelve Apostles had already been sent out on a mission preaching and healing.  So, they should understand all the more who Jesus is.

And they do.  Peter replies “You are the Christ.”  He understands Jesus is the Messiah.

Sounds great.  Peter has advanced in his learning.  Hopefully, we could all give the same answer.  We know Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  We have been taught this much.

Then we are told that Jesus began to teach them.  The content of his teaching here is his upcoming Passion.  While Peter has called Jesus the Christ, he can’t understand how the Messiah would be arrested and killed.  Let alone rise after three days.

It would seem totally unfavorably to Peter.

Of course, as Christians living after these events we know this to be true because it is what we have been taught.  But we might ask do we really understand what it means for us.  Do we put it into action in the way we live our lives?

Today is Catechetical Sunday.  The Catholic Church celebrates this day each September as we began a new school year.  The word “catechesis” is not a word we use in everyday English.  In simple terms, it is the religious education we provide.  

As such, we celebrate Catechetical Sunday to show the importance of our efforts to provide “religious education” and to honor those who do this, our school teachers, aides, and principal along with our parish youth and family ministers.  

But ‘catechesis’ is not simply education.  Pope Paul VI said the goal of catechesis is “to bring the power of gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures.”

So, catechesis includes also our RCIA program and it includes what I am doing right now, the homily where I seek to take the scriptures and help you see how they fit into our lives today.

So, the measure of good catechesis can be how well we live our faith?  Do we see our faith as relevant to our lives?  As James writes, we demonstrate our faith through our works.

Sometimes when we don’t live out our faith well, it is because we haven’t been taught well by others.  Sometimes, it is because we don’t make the effort ourselves to learn about our faith.  

The goal of catechesis is always a deeper relationship with Jesus.  Even as adults, we must still work on deepening our relationship with Jesus, applying our faith to what is going on in our lives.  Again, that is a central purpose of the homily.

But catechesis doesn’t begin as adults.  It doesn’t begin as teenagers.  It doesn’t begin in first grade religion classes.  As adults we learn best by application.  As children we learn lists of rules.  We learn in different ways at different times but often we learn the best when we learn by example.  

From the day a child is born, parents teach what their faith means to their children by example.  If the parents pray regularly with their child, the child will develop a sense that prayer is important.  If the parents bring the child to church each week, the child will learn that church is important.  

Near the beginning of our Rite of Baptism for Children, the parents are told it is their responsibility to train their child in the practice of the faith, their duty to bring them up to keep God’s Commandments.

It is the parents’ responsibility but you don’t have to do it alone.  Set the example in the way you live your lives but then fulfill your responsibility for their religious education by bringing them to our Catholic school or Family Based Religious education.  You don’t have to do it alone.

According to Canon Law, one of my primary responsibilities is to see to the religious formation of all parishioners.  You don’t have to do it all.  If you bring your child to us, we can play a vital role in their catechesis.  

Parents and the Church share a common goal, to help our children become all that God calls them to be.  Let us be partners working together for this.

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