I recently had the privilege of meeting Sherry Weddell and attending her one-day workshop for Forming Intentional Disciples.
Her book is wildly sweeping the catechetical nation and creating quite a stir.
There’s so much to talk about from this workshop, but there’s one thing in particular that hit me.
It’s a problem I never recognized and then, after I heard it, didn’t believe it was a problem. However, now I’m convinced and see it as an essential element in parish evangelization.
That problem is this–Catholics don’t speak the name of Jesus.
Ardor and the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead
“Where does ardor come from for Christians?” Fr. Barron asks in his recent keynote speech from the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.
“It comes from clarity about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead,” he answers.
You can view this section in the video below starting around the 19:20 minute mark. It only lasts a couple of minutes.
One of Blessed John Paul II’s three essentials for the new evangelization is that the proclamation of Jesus must be “new in ardor.”
In the video Fr. Barron said, for the early Christian community ardor (passion, enthusiasm) came from the fact of Jesus’ bodily Resurrection. That’s what sent the apostles “careering” around the world, he explains.
Fr. Barron calls this a grab your lapels kind of news. The apostles wanted to “grab the whole world by the lapels and tell them about something so extraordinary it changed their lives.”
They wanted to tell people about Jesus, once dead and now alive again. And what amazing news it is, right?
We don’t speak the name of Jesus
This got me thinking about something Sherry Weddell talked about in the workshop. Catholics don’t talk about Jesus or say the name of Jesus.
She said in many Catholic parishes Jesus is like Voldemort…”he who must not be named.”
In homilies and lectures, we talk about the Church, Church teachings, Church documents, the Saints, John Paul II and other popes, but we don’t talk about Jesus. At first I didn’t really believe it was true. I was a scoffer.
Part of my reaction came from my catechetical formation at Franciscan. Speaking solely about salvation through Jesus and relationship with him without the context of the Church is incomplete. It isn’t really Catholic.
Jesus came to establish the Church, which continues his works on earth. Jesus’ life-giving power comes to us through the Church’s sacramental economy. The primary way we encounter Jesus is in and through the Church.
What’s missing with this?
However, are we missing something here?
I started observing and Sherry’s right. We really don’t talk about Jesus as much as the Church. There seems to be a vibrancy and personal quality that’s lacking in this approach. Perhaps in emphasizing the institutional we’re sacrificing the relational…and that’s bleeding us.
Fr. Barron got me thinking, too. The apostle’s experience of Jesus and his life formed the basis of their preaching and teaching. It was the encounter with him, and subsequently those who came to know him through their witness, that changed the world.
It’s been said Jesus preached about the Kingdom but the disciples only preached about Jesus. Why? Because where the King is, there is the Kingdom. But have we lost the King for the Kingdom? Have we lost Jesus for the Church?
Jesus, more than just part of the plan
Catholics haven’t lost Jesus, but perhaps he comes off more as part of the plan, a systematic solution rather than a mentor, guide, and intimate friend.
I’ve noticed this problem with my own teaching for a while. In the story of salvation, the Trinity seems more like the protagonist than Jesus, who plays the pivotal and climactic role but comes in at the middle so to speak. It’s that way in the Creed as well.
Maybe that’s part of the problem. We think more big picture, 30,000 foot view, in the Catholic Church…influenced by the Creed perhaps?
Of course, the whole Trinity is involved in salvation, but only the Son assumed human nature and died for us. So maybe we should rethink how we present Jesus. He should be personal to us…not just a cog in the wheel.
The Resurrection and personal relationship with Jesus
In her workshop, Sherry called us to “break the silence” and be name-droppers…the name of Jesus, that is. Catholics need to hear the name of Jesus and know that a personal relationship with him is possible.
That is the beautiful gift of the Resurrection–Jesus was dead but is now alive. If he’s alive then you can know him, not merely as a historical figure, but as a person. And, if he’s a person and alive, you can have a relationship with him.
Sherry said when you don’t emphasize the personal, you end up with an institutional faith. That’s what the majority of Catholics have now, an impersonal, mechanical, institutional faith. It lacks life.
What’s needed is a more personal, living, and active faith. This allows the Holy Spirit to move hearts. It inspires to action.
Consider this next time you’re preaching or teaching–how does your topic relate to Jesus? How is Jesus the source and center of this? How does he enliven this?