Catechesis at the World Youth Days in Madrid

Topic of the catechesis

Today we are together for the second time for catechesis. Catechesis means: to put the content of our faith into words, to explain and communicate it. An indispensable source of our faith and therefore also for catechesis is the Bible, Holy Scripture, the Word of God [1]. For that reason, Pope Benedict XVI gave the WYD 2011 a theme from Holy Scripture: “Planted and built up in Christ, firm in the faith”. This is a quotation from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Colosse (Col. 2:7). Yesterday, Msgr. Eijk gave the first catechesis about the third part of the Biblical text: Firm in the faith. I was asked to think with you today about the second part of the theme: Built up in Christ.

Building in the Bible

I would like to start my catechesis with the Bible, Holy Scripture. When you leaf through the Bible you’ll soon discover that Hoy Scripture is a veritable construction site. Throughout the Bible there is much construction and talk about construction. I’ll share a few Bible texts.

a) The first book of the Bible talks talks about the construction of a tower in Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9). Construction does not go well because, by building a giant tower, the people in Babel wish to garner fame on their own. There is no place for God in the construction plans.

b) The Book of Psalms reads: “If Yahweh does not build a house in vain do its builders toil”(Ps. 127:1).

c) In the Book of Proverbs we read: “the house of the upright stands firm: (Pr. 12:7b).

d) A very eloquent text about building comes from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus tells a parable and talks about building on rock or on sand. “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them — I will show you what such a person is like. Such a person is like the man who, when he built a house, dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But someone who listens and does nothing is like the man who built a house on soil, with no foundations; as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!” (Luke 6: 47-49) [2].

Building the house of your life on Christ

When the Bible speaks of building, it is not only about wood or stone, not just about a house with a roof. When we are asked to build on Christ, it is about building your life on Christ by depending, as a human being, on Him. It is about the house of your living and working, the house of your heart, your identity, the house of your entire person.

Do you have an idea of what that house of your life, the house of your person, looks like? Are you proud of that house, or are you still building, or is there perhaps some deferred maintenance? Have you, until now, been living much outside yourself, and didn’t you yet take a real look inside the house of your life? Or haven’t you though much about who you are yet: about who God is for you, if God is welcome in the house of your life, if your neighbour gets room in the house of your heart?

To be able to build the house of your life on the person of Christ you need to build a bond with the Lord, that, in your life, you enter into a personal relationship with Christ.

(1) In the first place it is important that, in your faith, you begin to realise that Christ is not an abstract figure of long ago or far away. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us that Christ (the Son of God) became man to be near to us. Jesus truly shared our lives. In the Gospel of John we read, “The Word became flesh, he lived among us” (John 1:14) [3]. Furthermore, when He has risen from the dead, Jesus promises:,”And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matt. 28:20). Even after His death and resurrection Christ has not left us.

(2) Building on Christ in your faith, you may learn to see and recognise that you meet God Himself in the ever-near person of Christ. In the Gospel of John, Christ says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). We are also invited by Christ to pray the Our Father and call God Father [4].

(3) In order to be able to build on Christ it is necessary to be open to the call of the living Lord who is always near. The Bible says that every man is personally called by God. From his birth, man is invited to enter into dialogue with God [5]. Through the sacrament of Baptism you are united as human being to the life of the Lord. Baptism is the first sacrament you receive. It is called ‘the door to the other sacraments’ (ianua sacramentorum) [6]. Baptism is also the door which, in a special way, opens the house of your life to the power of the Holy Spirit.

(4) Building on Christ requires that you take the vocation that you have received from the Lord as a baptised person seriously in your life, that you find God’s intention with your life. That you personally dare to say ‘yes’ to Christ, by putting His word into practice. It is a matter of hearing, understanding and doing with all your heart. Jesus has said, “I shall no longer call you servants, […] I call you friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you”  (John 15:15, 14). “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit” (John 15:16).

95) Finally, it is necessary that you become aware that you are not called alone. In the Gospel of John Christ says that we are united to him as a branch to the vine (John 15:1-11). Christ even says, “Cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Through Christ we are also united as separate branches to each other.

Building on Christ, the living stone

In short, when you build on Christ, your life will stand like a house, because you really answer the Lord, and really listen to His words. When it comes to building on Christ, you are at the same time together with others who want to build their lives with Christ. In the First Letter of Peter, Christ is identified as the living stone (1 Peter 2:4-5). Those who are building their lives on Christ are also called living stones. They are the living stones which, in unity with Christ, form the spiritual building of the Church. “He is the living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you, too, may be living stones making a spiritual house.”

Pope Benedict XVI has spokes several time about the Church as a community of the called. When you build on Christ your life does not stand by itself, because you are united with Christ and also with others who believe.

In the Letter to the Christians of Ephesus the faith that Christ is risen is being proclaimed. Christ is the living Lord and we may live in unity with Him and each other. I quote from the Letter to the Ephesians: “So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; you are fellow-citizens with the holy people of God and part of God’s household. You are built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. Every structure knit together in him grows into a holy temple in the Lord and you too, in him, are being built up into a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:19-22).

In this passage an image is created of a building, a dome made out of the many living stones with Christ as the solid cornerstone of the building. Only when we build on Christ we can really grow in faith, increase in community. Only then God is fully a guest in the house of our hearts.

Building on Christ in word and action

The invitation to build on Christ is intended for all of us. As an answer we are expected to personally enter into dialogue with Christ. To believe that He lives and loves us, that we listen to Him and understand what He has to say.

In his message for this World Youth Day of 2011, Pope Benedict emphasises that we may listen to Christ as to a true friend [7]. And do you then dare to take a step further and, with all your heart, ask Christ the question, “Lord, what can I do for You? You know me, You choose me, call me and love me. What can I do for You?” Or, as Saint Francis asked in prayer, “what do you want me to do, Lord?”

In all our hearts God has planted talent and possibilities. He calls us to use those talents and gifts in unity with Christ. When you build on Christ and work in education then you can show that every pupil deserves respect as a human person with an inalienable dignity, and that you help someone develop through education. When you build on Christ and work in health care, you can show that treat every human with care and respect, especially when someone is seriously ill and dependent. When you build on Christ and work in management and politics, it is your vocation to do so honestly and upright in service to society, convinced that peace is the most profound fruit of justice (pax opus iustitiae). When you build on Christ and work in economics or business, you can work for an economy which does not merely see people as consumers but has an eye on the development opportunities for all people and nations. When you build on Christ and may raise children as a married couple, it is your vocation to introduce these children to Christ and His Gospel and to exemplify God’s love in your life. When you work as a priest, deacon or religious in unity with Christ for the development of the Church, you help all member who, as living stones, from the Church to truly be instruments of God’s love in the world.

Building and maintaining on Christ, it is never done

When you build the house of your life on Christ, you will also realise that you’ll always have to work on your relationship with Christ the living Lord. That you’ll have to maintain your bond with Christ: (a) to get to know Christ better by reading the Gospels and other parts of Holy Scripture. 9b) It is vitally important that you keep speaking with the Lord by regular prayer and present your life prayerfully to Him. (c) It is necessary to keep being fed by the sacraments: Most especially through the celebration of the Eucharist in which Christ really comes to us, with the gifts of His Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine. In the sacrament of penance and reconciliation we may confess our sins and receive forgiveness from Christ and so put the house of our life back in order in the light of God’s mercy. (d) The bond with Christ becomes even more concrete when the house of our life has room for the needs of other. Jesus says after all, “in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40) [8].

When we build the house of our life on Christ, you’ll find that our building is never finished or perfect. But in the process of building we are truly focused on the future, in which the ultimate completion of our building comes from God.

When we build on Christ, we are on the right path. “There is no permanent city for us here; we are looking for the one which is yet to be” (Hebrews 13:14). Jesus Christ has come to use by becoming man, He precedes us on the way of eternal life as the crucified and risen Lord. In this context I love the words in the second letter to the Corinthians: “For we are well aware that when the tent that houses us on earth is folded up, there is a house for us from God, not made by human hands but everlasting, in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Two questions

Now that we are on our way in life and are called to build our lives on Christ, I would to ask you a question to take with you into the discussion groups: United with Christ you are a living stone (1 Peter 2:4-5; Eph. 2:19-22). What do you, a living stone, want to do for your neighbour and for the Church?

Next to this question for the groups, I would like to ask you a second question which does not need to be discussed in the groups, but which you could answer personally in your heart: What would you like to say to Christ today?

Perhaps persons from the Gospel can help you along, I’ll give a few examples:

  • John the Baptist says about Christ, “He must grow greater, I must grow less” (John 3:30).
  • The Apostle Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life” (John 6:68). Peter also says, “Lord, you know I love you” (John 21:15).
  • Martha, the sister of Lazarus, confesses to Jesus, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world” (John 11:27).
  • Blind Barthimaeus calls out to Jesus, “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me” (Mark 10:47).
  • The father of sick son begs Jesus, “I have faith. Help my lack of faith!” (Mark 9:24).
  • The Apostles ask, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
  • When he encounters the risen Lord, Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!  (John 20:28).

Our faith in Christ is a great gift. Thank the Lord that you have received it and that you may grow in faith. Do not forget to find support in the faith with each other, especially in the community of the Church of Christ. Especially during the WYD you are able to form the Church of Christ and experience that it is Christ who calls us and wants to keep us together. Christ gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to remain planted in Him, to build on Him and together be supported by the faith.

+J. van den Hende

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