If you had to name the fundamental theme and unifying principle of all catechesis, what would it be?
What is the one thing you should communicate to your students?
With so many doctrines, it can be hard to name one principle that ties the whole Catholic Faith together.
St. Paul understood this completely and always worked to bring everything back to one thing. In Colossians 1:25-27, he clearly states why he became a minister of the Church. His role was “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” What is this mystery? “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Far from just a list of truths, the Catholic Faith is a wonderfully integrated unity with a central idea. The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) 98 states, “In reality, the fundamental task of catechesis is to present Christ and everything in relation to him. This explicitly promotes the following of Jesus and communion with him; every element of the message tends to this.”
This “Mystery of Christ” is the real heart of our message. As the GDC makes clear, all our teaching must relate to this. But why is “Christ in you” the “hope of glory”? Why is the presence of Christ dwelling in each of us so important?
The goal of all things is to be in union with God. This union was ours at the beginning of creation. When God created Adam and Eve, he breathed his life into their souls. Their principle of union with God was his own supernatural life dwelling within them. We call this sanctifying grace. This is what mankind lost as a result of original sin.
We tend to think of original sin as a “stain,” something on the soul that marks it or dirties it, and because we’re stained, we can’t go to heaven. In reality, original sin is not something added but something not added…something missing. In a newly conceived human person with original sin, God creates a soul without the gift of sanctifying grace, that principle of supernatural union with God.
Sanctifying Grace is like the family fortune that Adam and Eve once possessed but then squandered. Now it’s no longer their inheritance to pass down to their children. Because of their disobedience, we all start off life in spiritual poverty.
We are not naturally born with this gift of grace. Instead, we must be supernaturally reborn through Baptism! In Baptism, we are united with Christ in such a profound way, his life is transmitted to us. Our souls are reconfigured and filled once more with sanctifying grace. In this way, Baptism reverses the effects of original sin.
Through Jesus we become adoptive sons of God and heirs to the spiritual riches of the Kingdom. No longer spiritual paupers, we are members of God’s family and restored to union with him. This union is what grants us the possibility of eternal life. Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his [Baptism], we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Christ in us is the hope of our eternal glory!
What’s more, Baptism is the gateway for the most intimate union of all. In the Eucharist, we receive Christ’s risen body into our own bodies, and his supernatural life increases in us. Through the Eucharist, we can become more and more united to God, which is the goal of all things.
So, in each of us, Christ is the principle of Christian life. Christ is the center of our Faith. He is the source of our salvation. United with him, we have hope of eternal life. This Mystery of Christ hidden throughout the ages and now manifest through the Church should be the central unifying theme in all catechetical instruction. This is what everything leads toward. This is what everything is about. This ties everything together so we must tie everything to this. In each of us, Christ!
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