Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Mt 3:13-17

"Catechetical Sunday"


Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 9th January 2011

Today we celebrate “Catechetical Sunday.”  Some of us may think that this celebration and its theme of the Mass is not addressed or relevant to those of us who are not catechist. Everyone of us whether we are 3 years old, 30 years, 50 years or 90 years old, in-so-far as we believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Lord have a role and responsibility to make the Good News of Salvation known.  Thus, “Catechetical Sunday is everybody’s Sunday” and not only a “Catechists’ Sunday” so to speak.

This responsibility of handing on our faith is both urgent and essential because it comes from our belief that Jesus wants every person in this world to be saved and gain eternal happiness when we die.  For most, if not all of us, if we reflect on our faith’s journey, we will realise that it is because of someone strong faith like our parents and family, or friends, schools or teachers and the like that the faith was transmitted to us.

Even as we thank God for the gift of faith, we too have to be grateful for the many people whom God used to transmit the faith to us, for if these people did not value the faith we would probably not be a Catholic Christian today.

In our Parish community we are blessed to have about 100 catechists: about 60 for our Weekend Catechism programme and about 40 for our CCD International student catechism classes.  And through these committed catechists we are serving about 1,000 children for catechism programme.  Some of our immediate reaction would be, “Wow, how wonderful to have so many catechists serving so many of our children in our Parish!”

Just in case some of us may be thinking that these catechists are people who have a lot of free time in their hands or have nothing better to do on the weekends, let me tell you that these catechists are made up of: IT professionals, Teachers, School Principals, Housewives, Nurses, HR executives, Students, Quantity Surveyor, Lawyers, Accountants, Engineers, retirees, Grandparents Consultants in media, banking, finance and the like. And, they are all as busy as everyone of us.

Why then do they teach and coordinate as catechists?  Let me highlight some of the reasons that they have shared: Some of them say, “As a catechist, I can continue to share my faith with God’s children and I love God’s children.”  Another catechist said, “I want to share my experiences of God’s unconditional love for me with the children; another said, “I want more people to know the great love God has for us and how we should love Him in return; still another catechists said, I have received so much blessings from God and I am proud and happy that I can pass these on to children and my grand children too.  Yet, another shares, “I teach catechism because I believe God wants me to; it pleases Him and it helps strengthen my faith and draws other souls closer to God; God loves me so much and has been so merciful to me; a recent convert adds, I am very grateful to the Church for welcoming me so warmly and I want to give back to the Church and contribute what I can to it.

While some of these catechists are new recruits, there are those who have been serving selflessly for more than twenty years.  What is very striking from the sharing of these catechists is that each of them are clearly moved and touched by the Holy Spirit to serve God in our Parish community.

Is it easy for them to serve as catechists especially for those who have been serving for so long?  Humanly speaking I have no doubts that many of them on many occasions would have told themselves, “I am so tired, I am not getting any younger and I feel like giving up.”  Others may on the other hand say, “I have had such a busy week and my life is so hectic and Sunday is the only time I have with my children or have some time to rest . . . perhaps, I should just stay at home and pray for the catechists and the catechism children!”

These and many other thoughts and temptations will always haunt us when we are feeling physically tired or at times emotionally drained.  And that is probably one of the main reasons why we do not step forward to offer our services as catechists or to assist in other ministries in our Parish church community.  But, my brothers and sisters in Christ; let us not end our reflection on our physical and emotional needs.  Let us bring our reflection on to the spiritual and deeper level of who we are as a person.

At this deeper spiritual level, the view of reality is different; the logic of our decisions is also different; and the energy for our decisions too would be different.  This is because at the spiritual level we find ourselves drawn to serve and willing to persevere in our service and constantly making the needed sacrifices because we do them out of love for God.  Therefore, we can understand more fully now why each catechists were willing to continue to serve, in spite of the many temptations to give up; their reasons for persevering in their service, without exceptions are spiritual reasons.  They were each expressing very profoundly how they have each been touched by God; loved by God and thus feel drawn by God to share their deep experiences of Him with others – especially with the children of our parish community.

John the Baptist was passionate about preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  But, when he encountered Jesus; when the Holy Spirit in the form of dove descended on Jesus; and when a voice from heaven of the Father saying, “Behold, this is my beloved Son; my favour rests on Him; listen to Him,” John immediately realised that his mission was to point people to Jesus.   Likewise, many of these catechists may have felt drawn to serve in other ways than being a catechist, but when the Spirit of God touched their hearts through some persons, events or situations, they responded positively and stepped forward to offer their services to the parish community.  In this regard, we should all salute them today for the sacrifices that they have made for the formation of the faith of the children of our parish community.

Even as we may say that we are not called or cut out to be a catechist, let us not so easily let ourselves off the hook before we seriously pray about it.  There is still a shortage of catechists in our Parish.  So, I urge you to open your hearts to the Spirit’s promptings and if you are called I pray that you would heed God’s inspiration and respond without saying that “I have no time or I am too tired and busy;” as I said earlier all our 100 catechists are not any freer than we are; they too have their family and other commitments to attend to.

But, if God’s Spirit is truly saying that the catechists’ ministry is not for you, then at least we should each still responsibly ask ourselves and pray seriously on the question, as John the Baptist did, “How am I pointing people to the Truth of Christ and to make Him known, loved and honoured?”  “Am I nurturing my children and family and drawing them closer to God through the way I live and especially when I am at home?  Am I influencing my friends, relatives and colleagues, maids, gardeners and drivers towards what our Christian faith of salvation is offering?

My brothers and sisters, we are all called to live our faith to the full, whether we are catechists or members of different ministries or even as non-ministry members of our parish community.  Where ever we are, what ever we do, how ever we live, we must all point and draw people to Christ as John the Baptist did with such great passion; even to the point of giving up his life for his faith.  This is our basic vocation as Catholic Christians . . . and if we can do this wholeheartedly, whether we are young or old, healthy or sick, black or white, rich or poor, then the Word of God and today’s Gospel will come alive, in our hearts, our homes, our parish community and the world. When this happens, our world will no longer be the same. It will be filled with God’s Light of peace, truth and love through us.  And this is Jesus’ dream that you and I are called to fulfill in our daily living.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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