We just celebrated Pentecost. The Holy Spirit inbreathed life and vitality into a small band of Jesus’ disciples, into the Church. At the same time, we observed a National Day of Mourning and Lament (in the United States) as we remembered COVID-19 deaths of over 100,000 people in the US and over 350,000 world-wide. Add to this the police killing of yet another black man and the cries of so many who suffer under racism. What do these contrasting realities have to do with the catechumenate? Everything.
I think back to the early church. Church leaders were struggling with how to help people cross the chasm between the Roman culture and the Christian Way. The first exalted spectacles of mass killings; the second, the way of compassion and life. Over time, early church leaders developed the catechumenate. It became the bridge for those seeking to walk the way of Christ in the midst of a secular society. They needed a concentrated time of mentoring, teaching and prayer to be able to exhale all that led to death and to let the Spirit inbreathe the Way of Christ. Early church leaders planted and nourished the faith in those catechumens. Through entry into the church the newly baptized joined their fellow Christians to face the headwinds of domination, persecution and turmoil.
Today the tumultuous headwinds are equally strong. The pandemic has literally taken the breath away from hundreds of thousands. The demonic and devaluing power of racism still suffocates. Many are fearful. Some will seek an answer through faith. The catechumenate is a process that provides a deep grounding in the Christian way of love. The catechumenate reveals the stark contrast between following Jesus and following the crowd. The catechumenate gives a footing to face a turbulent future. It keeps before us the reality that each breath we take is a gift from the Spirit. It makes real the words of Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8: 38-39) We need the catechumenate now more than ever.
Charles is a member of the JBL Board