As you know, Pope Benedict XVII is in the midst of his first visit (as pope) to the United States. Realizing that America is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, one of the events he participated in was an ecumenical prayer service at Saint Joseph’s Church in Yorkville, New York. During his remarks, he said:
Only by “holding fast” to sound teaching (2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rev 2:12-29) will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us. Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the “reasons for our hope”, so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18) and granted us access to his divine life through Jesus Christ.
I think this passage raises several important questions for catechumenate team members, who are certainly working hard to “hold fast” to sound teaching. Here are some things that crossed my mind.
- What does “sound teaching” look like? How do I know if it is sound?
- What are some of the “challenges that confront us in an evolving world”? What is an actual challenge that I personally face every day that my faith helps me respond to?
- Do I give “unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel”? Hey, I went to graduate school. I excelled in ambiguity. But when I am talking with catechumens, how successful am I at giving a strong and clear testimony to the truth of the Gospel?
- Am I giving a “transparent witness to the ‘reasons for hope'” to men and women of goodwill? What about that cashier who was chatting with her friend instead of ringing up my eggs and bread? What about that guy who cut in front of me to grab the lone floor person’s attention at Home Depot?
I read a story a couple of months ago about a soldier who is going back to Iraq for his fourth tour. He volunteered. When a reporter asked him why he is going back, he said it was because he felt loved there. He knew the other soldiers in his unit would give their lives for him, and he for them. He said that when he was home, here in the U.S., he felt like people on the highway would just as soon run him into the retaining wall as look at him.
Sure, his story may be a little extreme, but how many others like him do we encounter everyday? People who don’t see the “reasons for hope” that we do? The questions Pope Benedict raises, it seems to me, are the kinds of question that should be most on our minds and hearts as we try to teach the faith.
If you want to comment on any of my questions or raise some of your own, hit the comment link. And I’ll be the first one to comment!