Planning a vacation? A trip to some exotic place? Or to an old familiar one?
Some of our trips turn out worse than we'd ever expected. Some work out better. But no one plans a trip that threatens his or her life. No one, that is, except Jesus.
This summer Luke's Gospel takes us on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus. The travel brochure promises plots, confusion, and death when we arrive at our destination.
Why are we taking this trip? Because of the road. All along the way we will share the road with the greatest catechist history has ever known. Stories, wisdom, and the challenge of a lifetime await us.
The next several weeks (Luke 10-12) take us into the heart of Jesus' teaching about the Christian way of life. At the end of chapter 9, Jesus begins his journey toward Jerusalem. It will culminate in his passion, death, and resurrection. But on the road he reveals to the disciples what is involved in the Christian way of life. That journey is the context for all the Gospel readings remaining this summer.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 12, 1992)
Week 15 of Ordinary Time offers us one of Jesus' most famous parables, the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:38-42). There are two points to the story: the pre-eminent place of charity in Christian life and the inclusion of outcasts in the Christian vision. It's not just anyone who takes care of the victim -- it's one of those hated Samaritans. When Jesus asks who was the victim's neighbor, the lawyer says it was the one who helped. He can't bring himself to say the word "Samaritan."
The first reading (Dt. 30:10-14) urges us to heed God's commands and to recognize that they are close to us, not out of our reach.
Catechesis this week may focus on the role of charity in the Christian life. We all need the reminder that charity should govern our thoughts and actions about others. Check out sections 49 and 64 of the General Catechetical Directory for the place of charity at the heart of the Christian way. You may also wish to review sections 39 and 42 of that marvelous document from Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium," or The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. There you'll find the universal call to holiness for all members of God's people.
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 19, 1992)
The road is long, so a rest stop is in order. A villager named Martha welcomes Jesus to her home (Lk. 10:38-42). She makes a fuss over Jesus while Mary sits to listen at his feet. Jesus praises Mary, who knows the importance of good catechesis.
But don't overlook the importance of women in this story. By visiting two women in their home, Jesus broke the conventions of Judaism. Luke reminds us that Jesus respected all human beings and included them in his ministry, mission, and catechesis.
The charming story in today's first reading (Gn. 18:1-10) recounts another home visit: the angels of God visit the home of Abraham. The story reminds us that guests to our homes allow us to meet Christ.
Catechesis this week could focus on the role of women in the church. It could also explore religion at home for example, the place of prayer, the Bible, and religious articles.
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 26, 1992)
Another famous passage comes our way in today's Gospel. Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray (Lk. 11:1-13). Here he reveals the Lord's prayer -- not just how to pray, but the importance and value of prayer, together with its rewards.
Abraham returns in today's first reading to give us an example of a master at prayer (Gn. 18:20-32). He coyly bargains with God for the salvation of his people.
Catechesis this week might include the Lord's Prayer, its place in the communion rite of Mass, praying at Mass, and the varieties of public and private prayer.
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 2, 1992)
So far, the journey has been rather pleasant -- charity, rest, and prayer have marked the way. But all of a sudden opposition steps in. Christianity is like life: Joy and sorrow mix to reveal the richness of human experience.
Today Jesus cautions about the desire for possessions (Lk. 12:13-21). They may be the undoing of the Christian. And the first reading proclaims gloomily that all is vanity (Eccl. 1, 2; 2, 21-23).
Catechesis this week may critique the role of possessions in the life of the Christian. Poverty is not to be emulated, but riches may lead to false values. Good catechesis on this topic can help us zero in on the meaning of life -- the love of God above all else, the giving of care for the needy. Vatican II gave us good background in Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. See sections 64-66. Another excellent reference is the U.S. Bishops Pastoral, "Economic Justice for All." Sections 48-52 will give you food for thought.
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 9, 1992)
The next parables create an ominous tone (Lk. 12, 32-48). Servants and leaders need to set things right before the master's return. In the church, this means we need to solve more problems than we create.
The first reading today picks up the theme of judgment at the end. The section of the Book of Wisdom (18: 6-9) recounts the marvels of Israel's Exodus from Egypt. The implication is that just as God brought final judgment to Israel's foes, so he will to those who oppose his will.
The second reading (Heb. 11:1-2; 18-19) stresses the role of faith in the community.
The road to redemption is marked by living in harmonious community. Catechesis this week may reflect on our responsibilities within the Christian community; for example, the church's expectations regarding Mass attendance, material support, and living the Christian moral life in the world. Look at paragraph 66 of the General Catechetical Directory for the community dimension of church membership. Another good direction to go is to examine the Christian family as an example of the Christian community.
Pope John Paul II's 1981 synodal document, "Familiaris consortio" (The Christian Family in the Modern World), offers an excellent reflection in sections 18-27.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 16, 1992)
Long before we reach Jerusalem the road gets bumpy. Today Jesus warns flat out that families will be divided over his message, and many people will simply not accept it (Lk.12, 49-53).
Jeremiah knows the feeling of rejection (38: 4-6; 8-10). He ends up in a cistern; all because he preached what God asked him. A problem appears here that turns up frequently: If God is such a redeemer, how come the people he chooses end up in cisterns? Why would anyone want to follow such a God?
We need the encouragement of the Letter to the Hebrews (12: 1-4) not to abandon the struggle, but to hold out to the end, where we will meet our final and glorious reward.
Catechesis this week may stress the importance of faith, the radical nature of the Christian message, the problem of rejection and suffering, and the need for redemption.
The Letter to the Colossians. Weeks 15-18 of Ordinary time offer us choice passages from Paul's Letter to the Colossians. This letter is short but rich in hope and insight. It encourages the church to persevere in following the Christian doctrine. You might enjoy reading the letter all the way through to appreciate the context of these four passages.
The first (1:15-20) is an early Christian hymn. It predates the letter itself; the author loved it and incorporated it into his opening section. It explains Christ's role in creation.
Catechesis on this section could show the relationship of Christ and creation, as indicated in the General Catechetical Directory, paragraph 50. Or you might enjoy discussing the role of hymns and music in worship. See Vatican II's "Musicam sacram" (The Instruction on Music in the Liturgy), sections 15-16.
The second section of Colossians (1:24-28) proclaims that God revealed his "mystery," his plan of salvation to the world.
Catechesis could explain what is God's plan of salvation, and how it is shared through preaching and example. There's a beautiful passage in Vatican II's "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," sections 2 through 6, that will give more information.
Col 2, 12-14, explores the meaning of baptism.
Catechesis could take up baptism, sin, new life in Christ and forgiveness.
Col 3, 1-5 and 9-11 apply all this instruction to the Christian life. Now that we have heard about Godís plan of salvation, now that we have participated in it through baptism, now we put it into effect in our lives. Catechesis could cover the demands of Christian morality, or the equality we share as members of the same Body.
The Assumption (August 15, 1992)
August 15 marks the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day in the church.
Catechesis should certainly explain the meaning of this feast: our belief that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. The importance of this day is the reassurance that God has prepared a place for his people, and has already shared that place with Mary, the Mother of our Redeemer. Themes to concentrate on include heaven, death, the resurrection of the body, and the promise of God. Holy days themselves might be a good topic. Another would be the role of tradition in church teaching, since the assumption itself is not a part of Scripture. Today's readings (e.g. Lk 1: 39-56) give witness to the holiness of Mary's life. Tradition tells us that her holiness, which began with Mary's immaculate conception, was completed with her assumption. Although that teaching is not in the Bible, it's part of our faith through tradition, based on what we know of Mary in Scripture.