An Echo Among the Noise – Homily for Catechetical Sunday

Catechetical Sunday 2017This weekend is catechetical Sunday,
the weekend in which the Church asks us
to call forth those who have been chosen
to be catechists in our parish,
to bless them and commission them for the upcoming year.

These are the teachers at our parish school, All Saints;
these are the parish staff and volunteers
who work with the children and teens
in the many youth faith formation ministries of the parish.

They are more than teachers, they are catechists.
What does that mean?
They do teach, certainly.
which is a worthy calling in and of itself,
but today we recognize that the work they do goes beyond teaching.

The word catechist comes from the root word “catechesis,”
an ancient Greek word meaning “to echo.”

A catechist is one who echoes the faith,
who makes faith resound.

God speaks to us all the time—
in Scripture, in the words and actions of the Mass,
in the sun that finally breaks through the smoky sky,
in the loving embrace of a parent and child,
in the support of a community when tragedy strikes.
God speaks to us each moment of the day in many and varied ways.

It is the ministry of the catechist to echo God’s voice,
to repeat it over and over, so that our children have no doubt
that God loves them,
that God cares for them,
that God offers them a share
in the divine life.

Each of the people to be called forth today
has been entrusted with that sacred task.

This day is also a time for them to rededicate themselves
to their mission of handing on the faith
and being a witness to the Gospel.

But it is also a day for all of us, the baptized,
to reflect on our role
in handing on the faith,
in echoing God’s love.

After all, as important as the ministry of the catechist is,
it is secondary to the role of parents and family.
Parents are the primary catechists in their children’s lives,
and we who are catechists assist parents in their sacred task
of handing on the the faith.

Together, we are to echo in unison the great song of love
that God sings to the world, to the universe, to all of creation.
We are to listen to God’s Word and speak it to our children.
And God’s greatest Word is the gift of his Son.
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.”

There’s a lot of noise in the world today—
the honking horns and blaring sirens of fear;
the screams of hatred and intolerance;
even the whispers of temptation.
Our children are drenched in messages
that are contrary to God’s message of love,
or that simply drown it out.

On this Catechetical Sunday,
we recommit ourselves to countering those messages
with God’s message of hope, acceptance, and compassion—
messages that say yes, there is a life of eternal joy after this world is done;
messages that say yes, you belong, just the way you are;
messages that say yes, you are loved more deeply than you can imagine.

With the events of just a few days ago at Freeman High School,
could there be a more important time
to echo our faith to our children?

This is the moment to set aside time in our homes
to share our faith stories,
to talk about our brother and best friend Jesus.
To echo God’s love.

“But what do I say?” we might ask.
“I’m not a trained teacher.
I’m no theologian.”

Neither were Peter, James, and John.
They were simple men. They were fishermen.
Matthew was a tax collector.

But they were also close personal friends of Jesus.
They had spent several years with him,
and knew him better than anyone
except perhaps his Blessed Mother.

That is all that is required of us: to know Jesus.
Each of you already know Jesus to some degree
or you would not be here today.
Each of us has been touched by Jesus,
each of us had the faith handed on by someone significant in our lives.

Share that with the children in our lives—
whether they’re still in school,
or whether they’re grown up and living on their own.
Speak with words, if that feels comfortable,
but most of all speak with your lives.
To be a catechist means to echo the words of Jesus,
but it also means to echo his life.

We are Christians, little Christs.
We have committed ourselves to lives of sacrifice,
to taking up our crosses daily.

When we live for the Lord instead of ourselves,
when we forgive not seven times but seventy-seven times,
then we are speaking much louder than words could ever speak.

Last week Fr. Lewis spoke about this church building,
of stewardship,
and of leaving a legacy.

What better legacy could we leave
than the legacy of handing on the faith to our children?
This is the ministry of the catechist,
to hand on the faith by echoing God’s love in our lives.

And what you echo in your homes,
we catechists echo in the parish and in the parish school.
In a few moments I am going to call forward
those who are to be blessed and commissioned as catechists.

These are people who have recognized
that God has given them gifts to share,
and they have responded to the call to share them.
It is not easy.
I’ve seen the parish education programs first hand
and from all different angles:
as a parent, as a volunteer,
as a teacher and administrator, and as a deacon.
I even got an inside look at religious education when Brenda
was the Director of Religious Education for seven years.

So let me be a witness to the incredible amount of work and passion
that our catechists give to their ministries.
They dedicate countless hours of their own time to preparation.
They attend classes and workshops to better their skills.
They spend time in prayer and on retreat to develop themselves spiritually.
They work with children of all ages and abilities,
with patience, compassion, and love.
Many are volunteers, who earn no money for their work.
Some are employed as teachers and administrators
who earn less than their counterparts in public education.

Maybe when you see them come forward
you will be inspired by their example
to want to offer yourself in service in some way.
Maybe a little voice inside you will ask, “How can I contribute?”
There may also be a countering voice that says,
“I don’t have enough time, I don’t have the skills,
I don’t have the knowledge.”

Listen to the first voice,
the one that feels drawn to being of service.
Sit with that voice over the next week.
Read through the bulletin, look at the St. Peter website,
and think about all the different ministries of the parish.

Each of those ministries is an echo of God’s love in its own way,
and so each, in a broad way, is a chance to be a type of catechist.
Maybe you’ll be drawn to classroom catechesis,
teaching religious education, helping with the youth group,
or volunteering at All Saints.
Maybe you can help by visiting the sick or welcoming new parishioners.
The Griefshare group is always looking for people
to help those who have lost loved ones.
If you feel called to advocate for the unborn,
or to help the homebound, or to deliver food to the food bank,
or to help new moms welcome their babies,
there are groups and ministries in the parish for each of those needs.

I encourage each of us here
to let the example of our catechists
inspire us to service,
especially those who have not yet found a parish ministry.

When everyone gets involved in parish life,
God’s love reverberates more powerfully and clearly
to a world in desperate need of it.

After we bless and commission the catechists,
we will continue with the Liturgy of the Eucharist,
culminating in Holy Communion.
As each of us comes forward,
I invite you this day to listen to the echoing sound
of the voices all around you as they say,
“The Body of Christ,” “Amen.”
“The Blood of Christ,” “Amen.”
as they repeat over and over.

Let the echo of those words not stay confined to this building
on this day only,
but let it resound throughout our lives each and every day,
in our families, at our places of work,
and in the various ministries of St. Peter Parish,
so that God’s love can be heard loud and clear.

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

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