Pope Benedict has saidÂ "Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."
HARRISBURG, PA (Catholic Online) "See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?" (Psalm 69)
Today is Catechetical Sunday, when the Church focuses on teaching and learning about our Catholic Faith. When I made up my mind to become a Catholic, I decided I needed a Catholic theological degree - because what I learned about Catholicism in Protestant seminary was what we didn't believe. So, I thought, I'd better study what we do believe. So I took a Master Catechetical diploma, a Master of Religious Studies and finally a Master of Theology.
But don't get the wrong idea - Catechesis is not academic - and it is not about the transfer of knowledge. The great Jesuit Catechist, Msgr. John Hardon, wrote that Catechesis - Is that form of Ecclesiastical action that leads both communities and individual members of the faithful to maturity of faith.
Maturity of Faith. Mature is defined as the state or quality of being fully grown or developed. In a psychological sense it means the ability to react, cope and reason in an appropriate way for the situation. Now Faith means trusting the word of another and accepting their authority to say it. Now let's put them together -
Faith, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church - is an act of the intellect (mind) assenting to the divine truth by command of the will (heart) moved by God through grace."
St. James' asks us today: "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?"
It's not just what we know, but what we do that demonstrates our faith. It's not enough to just say that you love someone; you have to show that you love them. St. James sums it up by saying - I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
So, Catechesis is learning about our faith with both our heads and our hearts; its learning what we believe, and how we're supposed to live.
In today's Gospel Jesus asks - "who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ."
Faith is more than facts, and even more than acts. The Bible word for Faith is pistis -Â which means belief, trust, confidence; fidelity. To have trust and confidence in someone, and be faithful to them even in tough times, you really have to know them, isn't that so?
-Â I was in Russia and trying to change my US $50 bill, and the teller told me she didn't have enough US dollars. Suddenly a stranger was beside me and said, "Do you need US money?" He was well dressed, and spoke English well. "Yes" I said. "I have what you need" and he gave me a twenty, two tens and two fives. I sat down and thought, "Who was he?" I took out my bills and held them up to the light and pulled out the red and blue threads. They were counterfeit.
To really trust someone, you need to know that person. Pope Benedict has saidÂ "Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."
And on this Catechetical Sunday, may we each come to know Jesus more and more.
Fr. Paul Schenck, a Priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA., is the founding Director of the National Pro-Life Center (NPLC)Â on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Center gives the Justices of the Supreme Court, their high level staff, members of the federal judiciary, members of the US Senate and other public policy makers the information, education and inspiration they need to better form their consciences so they will make better decisions. He is a Champion of the Pro-Life movement and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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