Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of November 7, 2011!
Congratulations to Andy Krueger!
Andy will receive a copy of Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics, a $20.95 value.
As the title suggests, Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics highlights what happens throughout salvation history between God and humanity. God breaks through and connects with human history, thereby establishing a relationship with humanity.
Using the Good News translation, Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics was created for young people leaving childhood and entering adolescence. Its ten special features were created to help make the Bible easier for young people to read and understand.
They will learn about the great people of the Bible, and will see how God has been breaking through in human history and connecting with humanity for thousands of years. Most important, they will discover, in the Bible, how God's messages to key people of faith have meaning for life today.
Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics
ISBN: 978-0-88489-862-7, paper, 1,968 pages
Focus on Faith
The Witness of the Catechist to the Young and the Young to Us
Before we get to this week’s reflection, I would like to ask all of the Servant Leader readers to please keep all of the youth traveling to Indianapolis next week for the National Catholic Youth Conference in your prayers. It is anticipated that up to 20,000 Catholic teens will be gathering for three days of prayer, fellowship, music, and fun. If you will be attending NCYC, please stop by the Saint Mary’s Press booth. We will have an interactive game area called “One Minute to Glory,” where teens can play exciting and challenging games.
In this week’s issue of the Servant Leader, we are blessed to have a reflection from Kevin Regan on the true meaning of catechesis. If you are a faithful reader of the Servant Leader, you might recall that Kevin wrote a reflection on the nature of Lasallian education that was featured in this newsletter around this time last year. Kevin is the grateful husband of Linda, the father of two children, and the grandfather of five. He works at La Salle Academy in Providence, RI, where he has taught in the religion department for thirty-two years, and he is the counselor for the San Miguel School of Providence. Kevin has presented at many conferences, including the National Catholic Education Association, the Huether Conference, and the Lasallian Justice Institute. Kevin received his master’s degree in religious studies from Providence College and his master’s degree in counseling from Rhode Island College. He has written four books and numerous articles relating to spirituality. I would like to thank Kevin for his wonderful contribution. As always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
Life Is Fire: Every Experience Is a New Flame
by Kevin Regan
While playing with my three-year-old grandchild, Christian, I was overwhelmed with his exuberance, his fascination with every experience as something marvelous, like a secret he just uncovered, revealing the touch and taste and sounds of new life. This is, I believe, a model of behavior that can guide all those who are trying by their lives to witness for the young the new life of Christian discipleship.
As expressed by Pope John Paul II, “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (On Catechesis in Our Time, 5). Although instruction by trained catechists is one element of catechesis, we are reminded by the USCCB in the document Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States, “It does not do justice to catechesis to think of it as instruction alone.” All those in the parish community, teachers, coaches, administrators in Catholic schools, all working with Catholic youth, are called by their Baptism to be witnesses of the gospel for the young.
I am reminded of the story of the young third grader who was drawing a picture in class. The teacher, upon observing her, asked, “What are you drawing?” The girl responded, “Why, I’m drawing a picture of God.” The teacher paused and after a brief reflection told the little girl, “Oh, no! You can’t draw a picture of God, because no one knows what God looks like.” The child, with eyes sparkling, looked up at the teacher and responded with a sprightly voice, “Well, they will in a moment.” That is the moment of catechesis that is ever available to those who work with the young.
In the First Letter of St. John we read, “This is what we proclaim to you: what we have seen with our eyes, what we have heard, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched—we speak of the word of life.” Catechetical ministry is just this. It is in our everyday life to witness by our words, more by our actions, what we have seen and heard and touched in our encounter with Jesus Christ. This is the task described for us by the bishops in the National Directory for Catechesis: the “most important task . . . Is to provide, through witness of adults, an environment in which young people can grow in faith.”
We must witness to the young in a manner that they can understand. As the General Directory for Catechesis explains, we are to adapt catechesis “in order to translate” Jesus’ message without betrayal “into the terms” of young people. Our task is like that of the artist who came to the city to play in concert. A mother brought her young son to the concert thinking exposure to the master would support him in being faithful to his piano lessons. The concert hall was filled with an expectant audience awaiting the start of the performance. When the mother wasn’t looking, her young son skipped out of his seat and placed himself behind the piano on stage. He began playing Chopsticks. The crowd became annoyed and irritated at what was taking place. The artist, aware of the happenings, walked onto the stage behind the young tike. He whispered into his ear, “Keep playing.”
As the boy played, the sounds of the master’s hand embraced and animated the young boy’s notes into a festival of music. The master had embellished Chopsticks. That is just what we are called to do. We are to be present to the young in such a way that even in their most challenging situations, our attention and care and knowledge of God shines a light on even their feeble efforts. We are to embellish Chopsticks.
Catechesis is knowing who Christ is, the facts about his life, and it is encountering Christ in an intimate relationship. The four pillars of catechetics, the six tasks, the two means, the six phases and eight components found in the catechetical documents, are all energized and expressed in the witness of the community.
We are like the father whose young son said one night that he was afraid. The father told his son that God loved him and would protect him. The boy said emphatically, “I know God loves me but tonight I need skin.” As parishioners, teachers, coaches, youth leaders, priests, and administrators working with the young—your young people need your skin! Thus Christ may be for them the fire of life, the flame of every experience.
Make It Happen
The Gospel According to Matthew: Reflection 1: Ministry Starts with Prayer
From Becoming a New Testament Leader: Biblical Reflections for Training Youth Ministry Leaders
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:1–4)
The Gospel of Matthew, like many ancient books, was written anonymously. Sometime after it was written, a tradition developed that Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, wrote it. There is no direct evidence to verify this. However, a great deal of evidence shows that whoever wrote Matthew used most of the Gospel of Mark as a primary source, as did the author of the Gospel of Luke. The authors of Matthew and Luke added material of their own to their Gospels, and their Gospels share material that does not appear in Mark. The Gospel of John does not appear to rely on any of the first three Gospels, but it does seem to verify much of their content.
The Gospel writers all presented Jesus of Nazareth, his life and ministry, his death and Resurrection, and the Good News (gospel is an old English word for “good news”) that he brought into the world. But how they did this depended on their intended audience. For example, Luke’s audience was Gentile Christians, and Matthew wrote for Christian Jews.
Some events in Matthew’s description of the childhood of Jesus may be more symbolic than historical because they do not seem to agree with similar stories in Luke’s Gospel. For example, Luke, the only other Gospel to speak of Jesus’ infancy, never mentions the Magi, Herod’s slaughter of children, and the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Perhaps these events are meant to echo early Jewish history—a technique Matthew uses in other places.
We should not impatiently expect photographic history from the Scriptures. This kind of reporting was impossible back then. Instead the Gospels were written within the limits of the authors’ age and culture, to retell the heart of Christ’s life and ministry so that others could encounter Jesus. That these books are the most influential in Western history is testimony to their success and their inspiration by God.
Although the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert includes some symbolic elements, such as the forty days, which echo the forty years that Moses led the Israelites in the desert, it probably has historical elements as well. Many people in Jesus’ time did withdraw to the desert in order to grow spiritually. The important lesson is that Jesus prepared for his ministry by taking time for prayer and fasting.
If youth leaders hope to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, they need to prepare through prayer and spiritual discipline as well. Jesus faced his temptations only after many days of preparation, and he also continued to pray throughout his ministry. He asked his disciples to do the same, even insisting that if necessary they withdraw from needy crowds seeking them out. Youth leaders do well to occasionally withdraw from the busy world of youth ministry to establish a regular habit of prayer and balance in their life as a foundation to ministry to youth.
Reflection Questions—Ministry Starts with Prayer
1. Catholic scriptural tradition believes that God inspired all the writings of the Bible, no matter what literary style the authors used. Jesus himself created fictional stories called parables to illustrate many of his most important lessons. Storytelling is an important element of Christian youth work. How would you retell one of the stories from the Bible as a modern fable to inspire young people?
2. Read the complete story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert in Matthew 4:1–11. Retell one of the three temptations as if Jesus were a youth leader. For example, the devil might tempt Jesus to focus on how many youth come to his group (all the kingdoms of the world) rather than on how to serve whomever God sends.
3. Three times the devil tempts Jesus to abuse his power. In what ways are youth leaders tempted to abuse their power? How does a life of prayer help to resist these temptations? How can supervision and accountability help?
4. A desert is symbolic of silence and emptiness, of time away from other people and things. Mother Teresa said, “Everything starts with prayer.” When do you find time for solitude? Are you balancing your active ministry with prayer? If so, how? If not, what can you do to improve the balance in your life?
5. During the first centuries of Christianity, the church fathers taught that the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures is more important than their literal meaning. But to approach the Scriptures on a spiritual level, we need to open our heart to God and listen. Take a moment now to read Matt. 4:1–11 slowly and prayerfully, listening for the words and phrases that most catch your attention. Write these down if you wish. Read this passage again. What might the Spirit be speaking to you about your life, through this scriptural passage? Read it a third time and then pause a moment in the presence of the One speaking to you through it. (This is a simplification of an ancient method of praying the Scriptures called lectio divina.)
Break Open the Word
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2011
Jesus, we hear you calling us to boldly live our faith by sharing it with others. Fill us with your grace so we can overcome our fear to risk and our inclination to bury that precious gift of faith because it's the easiest, safest thing to do. Amen.
This Sunday's Gospel tells the story of a wealthy man who, before setting out on a journey, entrusts his wealth to three servants. To the first servant he gives five talents, to the second servant two talents, and to the third servant one talent. A talent, by the way, was both a sum of money and a measure of money. Scripture scholars tell us that a talent was equivalent to the wage a day laborer would have earned in fifteen years. A talent, therefore, was a sizable amount of money, and everyone would have understood its value or worth. We find out from the story that the first two servants take the money entrusted to them and double it through hard work, but the last servant takes the money and buries it in the ground. Hiding money or valuables in the earth was typical in Jesus's day. Archaeologists are continually uncovering jars of coins throughout the Holy Land and elsewhere. Fear rather than gratitude may have motivated the third, or last, servant to bury the money entrusted to him; perhaps this servant knew that the wealthy man, at a future date, would ask him to make an account of the money. That is exactly what happens, "After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them" (25:19). This verse suggests that the master was more concerned with how they had lived their lives than how they had spent or invested their money, which prefigures the Last Judgment, when Jesus returns to judge his followers on the totality of their actions.
When the master comes to the first servant, to whom he had given five talents, the servant produces five additional talents; the servant to whom he had given two talents produces two more. The master praises them, saying, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master" (25:23). The joy of the master refers to sharing in his material wealth or abundance. Similarly, the joy of our Master, Jesus Christ, refers to sharing in his spiritual wealth, that is, the Kingdom of heaven. When the master comes to the third servant, to whom he had given one talent, the servant tries to justify why he buried the talent, which had everything to do with his fear of taking a risk. The servant says, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed" (25:24). The master then confronts the servant, calling him wicked and lazy. Because this servant did not use the money entrusted to him in a productive way, the master takes it away from him, thereby denying him the opportunity to share in his joy. In fact, he will experience just the opposite, he is thrown "into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (25:30).
This story is about servants (disciples) being entrusted with the gift of faith, which is to be shared with others through positive actions, not selfishly horded. We will hear more about the positive actions that Jesus expects of his disciples in Matthew 25:31-46, which is next Sunday's Gospel.
Through the Paschal mystery, the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we believe that humankind can once again pass into the eternal mystery of heaven, which is the point of culmination for all who believe in God and give witness to that belief throughout their lives.
By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1026)
Heaven is the fullness of life in the Holy Trinity, the loving community of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This communion of God will be shared by all the saints and angels. Heaven is where our deepest human longings as well as the restlessness of our soul will be fulfilled; it is a place of happiness.
"This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity--this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed--is called â€˜heaven.' Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness" (Catechism, paragraph 1024). Heaven is one of the most profound mysteries of our faith. Many spiritual persons throughout history, whom we call mystics, have tried to express in words both their insights and visions of heaven, which they gained through prayer and meditation. But they tell us human words fail to describe the fullness and depth of the mystery of God and heaven. The Church has given a name to the contemplation of God in his heavenly glory, "the beatific vision."
This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."1 (Catechism, paragraph 1027)
Matthew reminds us that Jesus Christ, through Baptism, gave us the gift of faith and urges us not to squander it by burying it in the ground. In the early Christian community, Baptism seems to have been understood as a verb not as a noun. In other words, Baptism, for the ancient church, involved action. These Christians took risks; for their Baptism to be authentic, it had to be witnessed, lived out in daily life. Playing it safe was not an option. They were compelled to spread the good news to the towns, on the roads, and in the countries Jesus didn't visit. They invested the gift of faith, wanting to bring back double, triple what they had been given, by bringing conversion to others. In Baptism we were given the same commission to bring Christ to others. If we accept the gift of faith, we are required to produce a yield in proportion to what we were given.
As Christians, we must never forget that our life ultimately belongs to God. All that we have is a gift from God. It is not an option for a Christian to live solely for himself or herself. Faith helps us to understand that we are not in this alone; we have to reach out, to invest in our brothers and sisters. Thus, we are invited and entrusted by God to be stewards of all God's gifts, including our own life and the lives of those around us.
The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.
The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.
The Lord's Prayer is from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Saint Martin of Tours
November 11 is the feast day for Saint Martin of Tours.
Saint Martin of Tours was the son of pagan parents. As a young man, he served in the Roman imperial army, and at the age of 18, he was baptized into the Church. The most well-known story about Saint Martin of Tours describes him cutting his cloak to give half to a beggar. He later had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak he had given. Later in life Saint Martin of Tours served as the bishop of Tours, France.
For more information on Saint Martin of Tours, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-martin-of-tours/.