In her autobiography An American Childhood, poet and essayist Annie Dillard describes her growth process as a series of awakenings. These “aha” moments marked the stages through which she passed in becoming aware of the larger world of which she was a part. Through these stages, she grew in her awareness and acceptance of what the world was like and how she might be involved in this wider world.
Waking up to the wider world involves more than just knowing about school, the neighborhood, our town, city and country. Children must also wake up to the moral and religious dimensions of this world. Christian formation not only promotes the knowledge of the faith, educates about liturgy, helps with moral formation and teaches prayer, but it also prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church.
Hopefully in the curriculum you use with all ages in your church, you will find abundant opportunities for awakening participants to their call to live as a Christian community and share in the Church’s mission to evangelize. This includes learning methods that encourage group members to connect with one another, reflecting on life through the eyes of faith, sharing their thoughts and concerns and regularly praying together.
The Church exists to evangelize. This task is rooted in the experience of the risen Christ who always sends disciples to tell the good news of the resurrection. To awaken us to this missionary dimension, religious formation seeks to equip the disciples of Jesus to be present as Christians in society through their professional, cultural and social lives. Participation in the Church’s mission of evangelization involves witness and proclamation, word and sacrament, interior change and social transformation. Those who evangelize have a global vision of evangelization and identify with the overall mission of the Church. Our ordinary lives are the connecting point between the Good News and our world.
One of the advantages of a lectionary-based curriculum is that its constant focus is the person and work of Jesus. Week after week, participants learn how Jesus fed thousands, freed those who were oppressed by demonic spirits, healed the hopelessly sick, brought peace and reconciliation to those who were alienated and excluded, and taught us to reverence God’s creation because God was intimately present in and through it.
Another advantage of a lectionary-based curriculum is that it includes not only “comfortable words” but also Jesus’ call to transform our world radically. Throughout the fall in years A, B and C, we find gospel readings that not only inform us about our faith but also call us to action. Especially during this season, you may want to draw attention to the demand to live out more fully the Christian vocation to share the prophetic, priestly and royal work of Jesus.
As prophets, we learn to discover Christ’s presence in our world. We look out at the world through eyes of faith to discover the meaning of our history and situation in the context of salvation history as it is presented in the Bible. We scrutinize the signs of the times to discover what may be genuine signs of the presence or the purpose of God.
Our prophetic insight gives us an awareness of the deeper reality of our world. The Christian knows that every human event—indeed all reality—includes the creative activity of God, which communicates goodness to all beings; the power of sin, which limits and numbs us; and the dynamism which bursts forth from the Resurrection of Christ. A world-view not recognizing these elements cannot be authentically Christian. Hence the importance of religious education.
As priests, we celebrate in ritual, word and sacrament the presence of Christ that we have discovered in the ordinary events of our world. The sacramental rituals and symbols do not explain our Christ-centered world, but offer insight into the eternally effective power of Christ to bring salvation to us—to remedy what is wrong with us and our world.
As kings or rulers, we subject everything to Christ and so to God. The kingly role puts everything into right order. We reevaluate and reorder our lives and our world in relation to Christ. This role requires us to work to create a kingdom community of individuals who are rightly related to God and to one another following the guidelines of Jesus. Learning to live in Christian community requires a careful and deliberate awakening to those attitudes described by Jesus in Matthew 18: simplicity and humility, concern for the least in the group, care for those excluded and alienated, loving correction, forgiveness and common prayer.
Living the Good News is a lectionary-based curriculum from Morehouse Education Resources, a division of Church Publishing Incorporated. This article is part of the support material for teachers.