Let’s read under the heading of “The christocentricity of the Gospel message.”
98. Jesus Christ not only transmits the word of God: he is the Word of God. Catechesis is therefore completely tied to him. Thus what must characterize the message transmitted by catechesis is, above all, its “christocentricity”. (Cf. Catechism 426-429; Catechesi Tradendae 5-6; General Catechetical Directory 40) This may be understood in various senses.
– It means, firstly, that “at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth”. (Catechesi Tradendae 5) 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 is a vital distinction. Jesus is not just a wise and holy man. He is not just a distant, demanding God. Catechesis is far more than the presentation and absorption of knowledge. Believers–disciples, really–don’t assent intellectually as much as they follow the Master and strive for communion with him. Somehow, contemporary Catholic catechesis must find its way past the obstacles of both feel-good religion and Church-teaching-as-the-cure-for-stupidity.
– Secondly, christocentricity means that Christ is the “centre of salvation history”, (General Catechetical Directory 41a; cf. GCD 39, 40, 44) presented by catechesis. He is indeed the final event toward which all salvation history converges. He, who came “in the fullness of time” is “the key, the centre and end of all human history”. (Gaudium et Spes 10) The catechetical message helps the Christian to locate himself in history and to insert himself into it, by showing that Christ is the ultimate meaning of this history.
So we are also asked to observe Christ in the passage of time. Not just Bible stories of the Old Testament, but also to see Christ as the resolution of the fruitlessness of human history.
– Christocentricity, moreover, means that the Gospel message does not come from man, but is the Word of God. The Church, and in her name, every catechist can say with truth: “my teaching is not from myself: it comes from the one who sent me” (John 7,16). Thus all that is transmitted by catechesis is “the teaching of Jesus Christ, the truth that he communicates, or more precisely, the Truth that he is”. (Catechesi Tradendae 6) Christocentricity obliges catechesis to transmit what Jesus teaches about God, man, happiness, the moral life, death etc. without in any way changing his thought. (Cf. 1 Cor 15:1-4; Evangelii Nuntiandi 15e, f.)
One might think this goes without saying, but it is indeed a true test of a catechist’s authenticity to be able to root herself or himself in Christ, and avoid the semblance of self-centeredness. The cult of celebrity would seem to be at odds with good catechesis.
The Gospels, which narrate the life of Jesus, are central to the catechetical message. They are themselves endowed with a “catechetical structure”. (Catechesi Tradendae 11b) They express the teaching which was proposed to the first Christian communities, and which also transmits the life of Jesus, his message and his saving actions. In catechesis, “the four Gospels occupy a central place because Christ Jesus is their centre”. (Catechism 139)
And this is why the Gospels themselves are so important. They are more than the words of Jesus studded into four narratives. Perhaps a liturgical reading of these books does not do them total justice in the sense of their wholeness as a prime part of the revelation of God.
A passage like GDC 98 is good reflection material for faith formation leadership, a staff, or a gathering of catechists. It presents clearly how and why Christ is at the center of catechesis. What are you seeing in this piece today? How does your parish or ministry measure up to it?