Is Christian teaching a work of mercy?

September 6, 2020

A tenet of Christian teaching is that it is a work of mercy. Why would this be? It is important to identify the need for a person to operate their whole being from a proper sense of faith and reason that enables the person to distinguish right from wrong, sanctity versus vanity, sacredness versus corruption. Christian teaching is a work of mercy because the principal aim in this endeavor is the formation of the soul in order to avoid a lack of truth, knowledge and identity as a child of God.

The teaching of the Catholic faith requires the teacher address the heart, mind and soul of the child, this is what is called a pedagogical approach to learning where the teacher guides the learner in this case the child toward the development of an awareness of God handed down through the Son of God Jesus Christ the second person of the Blessed Trinity. When one addresses the heart, mind and soul of a child you immediate begin to demonstrate the reality of authentic freedom where a child is given the opportunity to exercise his intellect and will which aims at strengthening a child’s faith and the ability to rationally articulate the faith through a natural sense of reason.

Our aim as Catholic educators is to engage and guide a child toward an active and visible relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, one that will in effect exercise and apply a sacramental character. If a child is actively exposed to a Christian atmosphere and offered the opportunity to engage this atmosphere, then it is reasonable to say that an opportunity would arise for the child to investigate the truth of the faith even further in whatever circumstance a child is placed in. The distinction of this example is that the aim is based on the revelation of Christ and the opportunity to form an active relationship with Him. This road to truth involves the development of an awareness for God-the Word, a desire for truth-doctrinal creed, and an active and gradual conversion to Christ where the final aim is Heaven.

Work of Mercy and the Word of God

The religious aim of any faithful parent should focus on inviting their child to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. With respect to the approach taken, I do not mean using the following phrases, “Jesus loves you” or “Jesus is everything” even though these statements do carry truth if placed in proper context. And with respect to visible actions I do not mean using “Jesus coloring books” or “creating a felt banner for Christ.” A proper religious focus on Christ provides and invitation to engage the Word of God through the study and discernment of Sacred Scripture. In studying the Word of God, one introduces a child to the way God communicates and accommodates Himself to us. This process provides the child the opportunity to preserve his Christian identity and avoid the development of a pagan one. The study of the Word of God lends itself to the development of an interior life focused on Christ. This work of mercy means to assure that the child in question does not stray from praying with Christ. Hence, the reading of Sacred Scripture in the home, the exercise of the Liturgy of the Hours and lectio divina, aim to strengthen a child’s relationship with Christ.

Work of Mercy-to know Christ Jesus

If the child in question has developed a genuine openness to the Word of God and desires further spiritual nourishment, then the next work of mercy is an invitation to engage Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Christ invites the faithful to receive his body and blood in the following way:

Truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.[1]

In a most striking example of an appeal to the heart, mind and body Christ offers himself through the gifts of bread and wine that directly represent His body and blood offered for the salvation of humanity.[2] The effectiveness of this invitation is meaningless without a genuine desire by the parent to first openly and faithfully affirm the true presence of Jesus Christ in the form of consecrated unleavened bread and pure wine and second receive the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and all holy days of obligation. A genuine work of mercy in this area of Christian teaching is to assure that the child does not suffer from a lack of truth or knowledge of the Catholic faith.

The strengthening of one’s Christian identity must revolve around the development of a proper sense of Christian identity as a child of God strengthened through the development of a genuine profession of faith in God. To know Christ Jesus is to make a profession of faith received at baptism and understand that we are Christ’s perpetual students because of our perpetual association with the Divine.   

St. Paul VI summarizes Christian teaching as a work of mercy in the following way:

A witness as you know, is not a propogandist, the carrier of an outward message. He is an Apostle who must strive to love his own life in intimacy with the Lord as though seeing the invisible through the course of everyday life. He must live by the Word and the Bread of life. He must enter into the plan of salvation of which his companions along the way often know nothing.

Address to Catholic educators, October 20, 1972

 

 

[1] CCC 1384

[2] Jn 6:35-59; Mt 26: 26-29

 

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