As I was browsing in the card store a few weeks ago, I saw cards for every possible autumn holiday or occasion — Grandparents Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and some I had never even heard of before! But, I did not see any cards for one of my favorite autumn occasions — Catechetical Sunday! I can’t imagine why Hallmark has not picked up on this most important celebration!

Catechetical Sunday happens every year — on the third Sunday of September. It is the day the bishops of the United States have designated to remember, honor and bless all those women and men who serve in catechetical ministry. (For those who may not be familiar with the term “catechetical” it is related to the word “catechesis” which means “to echo or to resound the faith.”) Simply put, these women and men are called to share faith, in a variety of ways, with adults of all ages, families, children and young people.

In addition to our bishops, priests, deacons and vowed religious, we call them by many and varied names — catechetical leaders, youth ministry leaders, coordinators or directors of faith formation, catechists, Catholic school teachers, RCIA coordinators/team members, marriage preparation couples/teams, respect life coordinators, and more! And let us not forget parents who are the first and best witnesses of the faith for their children! For all those who share faith, we give great thanks!
What does “sharing faith” really mean though? Pope Francis gets to the very heart of it. It is sharing this wondrous good news: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you” (Joy of the Gospel, 164). No matter what aspect of the faith we are sharing at any given moment, it is this essential message that should shine through. Moreover, sharing faith is not just for those who serve in formal catechetical ministries. Rather all of us, as disciples of Jesus, are bound by our Baptism to share this message not only in our words, but also by the witness of our lives!

What a privilege! What a joy! What an awesome responsibility! What a challenge! We need strength, wisdom and encouragement. The theme chosen for Catechetical Sunday 2022 — “This is my Body given for you” — offers us such nourishment.

We hear the priest pray these words each time we celebrate Eucharist. Through them, and the action and power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus totally and wholly becomes present to us, with us and for us — under the “little form of bread” as St. Francis of Assisi was fond of saying. In the Eucharist, Jesus continues to offer us his presence and self-giving love today as surely as he did when he walked among us.

The word “given” is key to understanding the profound nature of Jesus’ self-gift. The Church takes these words of consecration from the Last Supper narrative in the Gospel of Luke. The Greek word for “given” that Luke uses is didomi. It means “to dedicate oneself for some purpose or cause, to give up, to sacrifice.” Jesus embodied all of these meanings during his life, and most completely, of course, in his passion, death and resurrection.

His purpose in life was to proclaim this message: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). In Jesus, God’s reign of justice, love and peace was definitively revealed and generously offered to all — especially to the poor, the outcast, the sick — to all those on the margins — both then and now. It was — and still is — to be a new way of life and living. Jesus dedicated and gave his entire self to this purpose. He sacrificed even when he was tired and exhausted. Always “his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned.” (Matthew 9:36).

His ultimate sacrifice on the cross would forever seal this relationship between God and humanity. Nothing could ever again separate us from the love of God (cf. Romans 8:38). If this were not enough, his resurrection extended the Kingdom’s promise of new life beyond the realms of time and space into eternity. Jesus offers us life in abundance, here and hereafter.
So, for all of us disciples who share faith — formally or informally — let us draw strength, wisdom and encouragement from Jesus.

Strength
— by turning to him often in prayer and receiving him in Holy Communion. Then we will know that he is walking by our side as we share faith, in moments of joy, and especially when we may find ourselves discouraged or weary.

Wisdom — by remembering that Jesus encountered each person with openness and then journeyed with them at their pace — as he did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We, too, must be willing and humble enough to encounter and accompany others, especially those who may feel less than welcome.

Encouragement — by knowing that whatever time, energy and effort we sacrifice and dedicate to sharing faith has an amazing purpose. We are offering people the opportunity of a lifetime now and forever — to meet Jesus.

Happy Catechetical Sunday! I guess we will have to make our own cards until Hallmark gets the message!

David G. Amico, M.Ed, is the diocesan director for the Office of Lay Ministry and Parish Faith Formation.