I grabbed my Catechism, went to Random.org and put in the total number of paragraphs. My random number for this round of “Dial a Catechism” was 75.
Here’s what I found:
I. The Apostolic Tradition
75 “Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”
I couldn’t help but read that paragraph and think of the New Evangelization that’s been the hot topic in Catholic circles since Blessed John Paul II and has gained lots of momentum in the last few years. Although this paragraph is speaking mainly about the tradition of preaching the Gospel in the Apostolic tradition, i.e., passed down through our ordained clergy, we the laity are also called to be a part of this priesthood by virtue of our own baptisms.
This passage thus speaks to me loud and clear and I wonder sometimes if I’m living up to it. Do I share the Gospel, or at the very least, the essence of the Gospel, with those around me? Am I doing my best to live by what is taught in the Gospels? Am I teaching my children to know and love the Gospel message of Jesus Christ?
We’re not all necessarily called to preach the Gospel, but we’re all called to live it and share it with others, whether that be through word or action.
Sometimes I think about this idea and wonder if I’m doing enough. Has anyone found their way back to the Church because of me? Has anyone decided to look into the Catholic Church because of something I said or did? These are the kinds of things I may never know. And I think that’s how it ought to be.
If I knew that I actually had an influence on someone to join or come back to the Church, it might make me a little too confident in my abilities to spread the Gospel message. This wouldn’t be good for me, I need the humility that comes with not knowing. Likewise, if I knew that my efforts as a Catholic had no affect whatsoever on the people whose lives I touch, I might become discouraged. Not only that, but I might lose a little of my faith as well. I certainly don’t want to become deflated in my own zeal for the Church just because I haven’t personally converted someone. Maybe I’m not meant to, maybe God has other plans for me, maybe I’m only here to help plant seeds and the bigger work will be done by others.
I think that’s one of the beauties of our Catholic faith and of the Gospel message. As Catholics we form a community- a very large community worldwide. As St. Paul says (and I’m paraphrasing), we are all many parts that make up one body. Our priests are called to preach the Gospel from the pulpit, some laity are also called to preach the Gospel in public ways. We have religious sisters and brothers who pray for the Church and the people of the world and we have religious who go out and care for the poorest of the poor, teach in schools, minister to the sick, and so forth.
And finally, we have the bulk of the Church, the vast majority of the laity, who are here to live in the world and spread the Gospel message in little ways. It may be that we’re here to teach the Gospel of Jesus to our children only. Maybe we have a somewhat wider influence and can help bring extended families members or friends back to the Church. Or maybe we’ll touch the lives of coworkers or others we meet, even if it’s just to plant seeds.
Whatever it is for me (I’m still figuring it out), I’m realizing more and more that I need to become more familiar with the Gospels themselves. The actual four Gospels of the Bible. I know the stories, I’ve heard them proclaimed at Mass for years and years. But do I really know what they say? Have I studied them? Prayed over them? Read through them?
The answer? Not fully.
I’ve done some Bible Studies years ago on one or two of the Gospels, but I need to know my Bible much better. So, I’m starting now (or more appropriately, I’m restarting now).
If we look back at paragraph 75 of the Catechism and read on we see in paragraph 76 that the Gospel has been passed on in two different ways: orally and in writing. We often think of the oral transmission of the Gospel as something that only occurred in the first few hundred years after Christ’s death before the Gospels were written down and extending beyond that through the time when most people in the world were still illiterate. We take for granted, I think, the fact that we now have the Bible in written form so readily available to us. But we mustn’t forget that the Gospel is still being preached to us orally and always will be as long as we have the Mass available to us.
We must learn to not only read our own Bibles, but to listen to the Word being proclaimed to us as well. In addition, we have to live the Gospel message and thus proclaim the Good News to our fellow man through our actions and in who we are. Not an easy feat at all. I’m sure I fail at this on a regular basis. No, I’m not sure, I know I do.
I also think it isn’t entirely random that I picked paragraph 75 for this post. It seems very appropriate considering that today is also the feast day of St. Luke, one of our Gospel writers.
In honor of St. Luke, I’ll be picking up my Bible today and reading some of his Gospel. It’s where I left off in my last attempt to start reading more of my Bible, so it seems appropriate to start there. Won’t you join me?