Monday, January 21, 2013

The Role of the Ministries of the Word

Next Sunday, (3rd Ordinary Time) provides an ideal moment to reflect on the ministries of proclamation of the Word. In the Gospel we will encounter  Jesus standing in the Synagogue proclaiming from the scroll of Isaiah. Prior to that iconic moment, we have been set up to make connections. In the first reading, we hear of the awe of the intergenerational assembly, "men, women, and those children old enough to understand," as Ezra proclaims the Law of God from a wooden platform in an open place. In the second reading, we hear Paul speak of discernment of the various gifts in the community, including the ministries of the Word:
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
(I Corinthians 12:27-30)
Taken as a package, this is a ready made opportunity to talk about who in the community is sharing their gift to preach and teach the Word. It might be an ideal time to call attention to the ministry of the reader at Mass,  of the deacon and priest as lectors and preachers, and to catechesis as a ministry of the Word.

The General Directory for Catechesis notes

The ministry of the word is a fundamental element of evangelization. The presence of Christianity amongst different human groups and its living witness must be explained and justified by the explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ the Lord. "There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed". Those who are already disciples of Jesus Christ also require to be constantly nourished by the word of God so that they may grow in their Christian life. 
The ministry of the word is exercised in "different forms". The Church, since apostolic times, in her desire to offer the word of God in the most appropriate manner, has realized this ministry in the most varied of ways. All of these, however, perform the essential and fundamental functions of the ministry of the word itself.
The ministry of the word, within the context of evangelization, transmits Revelation, through the Church, by using human words. These, however, always refer to works: to those which God has done and continues to do, especially in the liturgy; to the witness of Christians; to the transforming action which these Christians achieve, together with so many men of good will, throughout the world. This human word of the Church is the means used by the Holy Spirit to continue dialogue with humanity. He is, in fact, the principle agent of the ministry of the word, the one through whom "the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church—and through her in the world". (50)
Catechesis itself, the General Directory tells us, "is that particular form of ministry of the word which matures initial conversion to make it into a living, explicit and fruitful confession of faith.” (82)

The readings of the weekend call us to reflect on who the people are in our communities who are  called to the ministry of the Word in its different forms: primary proclamation in the gathered assembly, initiatory catechesis, continuous education in the faith, the liturgical function, and the theological function (GDC 51-52) As we hear about the ministry of proclamation and the gifts in the community next weekend, let us give thanks for the various people in our communities who have been called and gifted for proclamation of the Word.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Liturgical Catechesis on the Eucharist - a Creative Catechist Makes it Real

My friend Christian LeBlanc, catechist extraordinaire, just posted a great sound byte  from a lesson on the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes and its relationship to the Eucharist. Smaller Manhattans: Res Ipsa Loquitur: Mass Model   

The kids are engaged and eager - and a bit chaotic at times, but he gets the point across.  Be sure to click on the text "8 minutes of class time" to bring up the mp3 recording - then look at the drawing and listen to how he gets the point across to the kids.  Liturgical catechesis from scripture story... Bravo!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Transformed Through Him Whom We Recognize: The Call of the Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the end of the Christmas Season by remembering Christ's baptism: that moment when he permitted himself to be recognized, so that he could begin his public ministry. It's easy to think that this feast is simply a memorial of a particular incident in Christ's life in First Century Palestine.  It's less obvious that this is a call to personal transformation, but the prayers of today's Mass make that pretty clear.
Take a look at the Missal prayers of the day.  Here is the Collect. Uncharacteristically, we have two choices.  Most presiders will no doubt choose the first, which takes us back to the moment in Jesus' life. But look closely at the second one:
Almighty ever-living God,
who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan
and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
solemnly declared him your beloved Son,
grant that your children by adoption,
reborn of water and the Holy Spirit,
may always be well pleasing to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
O God, whose Only Begotten Son
has appeared in our very flesh,
grant, we pray, that we may be inwardly transformed
through him whom we recognize as outwardly like ourselves.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The first choice uses the language of the Gospel - about being pleasing to God. The second, however, reaches deeper and challenges us to be "inwardly transformed through him we recognize as outwardly like ourselves."  At baptism, each of us laid aside the old person and put on Christ. This second prayer reminds us that although baptism is a one-time event, the transformation it calls forth in us is something we must continually seek.  

The Prayer After Communion calls us to become God's children "in name and in truth":
Nourished with these sacred gifts,
we humbly entreat your mercy, O Lord,
that, faithfully listening to your Only Begotten Son,
we may be your children in name and in truth.
Through Christ our Lord.
Today's feast is a reminder that being a faithful Christian is not simply a matter of going through the motions, but of an inward authenticity that matches our actions. It is more than simply the end of a liturgical season, but an important reminder that Jesus, who "has appeared in our very flesh" constantly calls us to become more like him.