BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (58) – Why do we say that Jesus Christ is at the center of catechesis?

– Rev José Mario O. Mandía

When we are introduced to the Catechism, we are taught that it consists of four parts: creed, commandments, sacraments and prayer. But if we examine closely these four parts, we will see that they all converge in Jesus Christ. This is why we can say that when we learn or teach the Catechism, we are learning or teaching not only a set of beliefs (a creed), rules (a code), or rituals (a cult). What we are learning is a Person, Jesus Christ, because He summarizes in His own life everything that we need to learn. 

The CCC (427) teaches: In catechesis Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God … is taught – everything else is taught with reference to him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. . . Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus:My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.(Catechesi tradendae 6; cf John 7:16).” 

In order to understand this better, it is important for us to remember two things about Jesus Christ. 

1. He is the Christ. That means he is Priest, Prophet/Teacher and King/Shepherd. “The word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means ‘anointed.’ It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that ‘Christ’ signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets. This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively. It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet. Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king” (CCC 436).

2. Jesus said he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

How do these facts explain that Jesus Christ is the center of catechesis, that creed, code and cult all revolve around Him?

1. The Creed. Through it we know about God, about ourselves, and about the world.  Who teaches us about these things? Jesus Christ, who fulfills his role as Prophet/Teacher. He teaches us about the Father: “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (John 14:7). He teaches us about Himself. He teaches us about the Holy Spirit: “But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me” (John 15:26). He teaches us about ourselves “because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He teaches us about the world because “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Jesus teaches the Truth. He is the Truth through which we know other truths.

2. The Commandments (Moral Code). They are like road signs that show us the way to the infinite happiness that our hearts long for. Christ, as King and Shepherd, leads us along the right Way, which He summarizes in His own life. He is the benchmark, the standard, the model, on which we have to pattern our lives and by which we will be judged at the end of our life.

3. The Sacraments and Prayer (Cult). Through these, God blesses man and man blesses God (cf CCCC 221), through Jesus Christ, who is the Eternal and High Priest (cf CCCC 233). It is through Him that we have Life: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54) and is through Him that we offer our lives to the Father: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). 

Jesus Christ is the center of all catechesis because he is the Prophet who teaches the Truth (Himself), the King or Shepherd who shows the Way (Himself), and the Priest who gives Life (Himself). 

Jesus Christ Himself is the Good News.