Vatican City, 29 September 2013 (VIS) – The catechist is one who guards the memory of God and who knows how to awaken it in others, said Pope Francis in the homily he pronounced during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, in which more than 100,000 people participated, also filling the adjacent Via della Conciliazione.
On the concluding day of the pilgrimage to Rome of catechists from all over the world, marking the Year of Faith, the Holy Father quoted the words of the prophet Amos: “Woe to the complacent in Zion … lying upon beds of ivory! They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles”. He explained that, although these are harsh words, “they warn us about a danger that all of us face. … The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives”.
This was also the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed luxuriously and banqueted sumptuously without concern for the poor man on his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger. “Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. … The rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply ‘a rich man’. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else”.
This happens to us when we find “security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face. This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. … Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face. Those who run after nothing become nothing”.
The catechist must be those “who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others”, like Mary, “who … sees God’s wondrous works in her life … but instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God … goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, also pregnant”, and upon encountering her, “the first thing she does … is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history … Mary remembers God”.
“This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. … A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it. … What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love?”.
Finally, the Pope cited St. Paul’s recommendations to Timothy, which also indicate the path of the catechist: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. … Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of ‘hypomoné’, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy”.
Francis concluded, “Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others”.