Brisbane ARCHBISHOP MARK COLERIDGE says young people need to be helped to read the Scriptures if they want to understand why the Church teaches what she teaches.
PASSING on the treasures of the faith to the younger generation is absolutely fundamental to the life of the Church.
We’ve been doing it for 2000 years and the Lord Jesus calls us to do it until the end of time.
So passing on the faith is a task that lies right at the heart of the Church’s life – passing on the treasures we have received to those who come after us.
But this is not an easy time to do that and we all know that in our schools, in our homes and elsewhere, it can be very challenging to pass on the treasures of the faith, which the young don’t often see as treasures.
They sometime see them as a kind of burden that they want to cast off in order to be free.
What we say, of course, is that they will never be truly free unless they discover the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our young people are the product of a particular culture, inevitably – so are we all, but particularly the young.
And in this culture, what the Catholic Church believes and teaches – not always, but often – seems strange, even wacky to good and decent people and to young people.
It doesn’t seem to make sense, and it’s counter-cultural in a way that doesn’t sit easily with young people who want to be part of the crowd.
Our schools remain a fantastic evangelising opportunity, so in our schools we have to do everything we possibly can, even in new ways as part of this new evangelisation, we have to do everything we can to help young people understand that what the Catholic Church believes and teaches may seem oddball but in fact is not.
I have friends, good and decent people, who would say to me “how can anyone who’s intelligent, reasonable and decent believe what the Catholic Church believes?”
They’re not aggressive towards the Church, just perplexed, and the young people share that kind of perplexity.
So more than ever they need to see that if the Church teaches something, it’s not because the Church hasn’t thought about it.
In fact, we’ve been thinking about a lot of these questions longer than most.
The fact is, it is counter-cultural at times, but that doesn’t make it untrue because at times the truth is strange.
At times the truth seems oddball.
At times the truth is deeply counter-cultural.
We see it in the gospels with Jesus where those who have been listening to his teachings say “how could anyone accept this? It is intolerable language”.
Well they said it to Jesus and they’re still saying it today to what the Catholic Church teaches.
But that doesn’t make what Jesus said untrue, nor does it make what the Catholic Church says untrue.
To help young people understand why the Church does teach these things they need a kind of – the word that’s used traditionally is apologetics.
It’s not apologising for anything, what it is is seeking to explain the reasons, the good, strong, intelligent reasons for the Church’s teachings.
As part of that process the young need to be helped to read the Bible.
That’s a major task.
We have to become a more biblical Church as a whole, that’s absolutely essential if we want to become a more missionary Church.
The whole Church needs to become more biblical, but as part of that our young people need to be helped to read the Scripture if they want to understand why the Church teaches what she teaches – because all Church teaching, despite appearances sometimes, is rooted in the Scripture.
It’s a way of reading the Scripture.
But then they also need to be led, and I underline that word led, through the Church’s teaching that’s expressed in the Catechism.
Now that’s a big, fat book.
There is a much smaller thing called Compendium of the Catechism, so don’t be daunted by the size of this.
But this is the Church’s reading of the Bible through the ages, all that the Church believes and teaches.
And we say this is a way of truth, a way of freedom, a way of joy – all those good things that young people are looking for – but often look for the right thing in the wrong place.
In this big, fat book, and in its much smaller compendium, there is a part that may be strange but is nonetheless, we say, the path to truth and freedom and joy – all those good things that young people, and every human being, look for.
Also, there is the social teaching of the Catholic Church – it’s not just about me and God.
This is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church – the Church is a magnificent vision of human society.
So to help the young people, by leading them into the gift we have here, leading them into a thing like that is also part of the deal.
In the end though we have to lead young people to Jesus Christ, because our faith is not a moral code or a set of ethics or of values, it’s not a philosophy, certainly not an ideology or a political system – none of that stuff.
It is an experience of Jesus Christ, but it’s not a mindless experience.
The encounter with Jesus Christ gathers up the whole human being, including our mind, our heart, our soul, our body, our memory, our will.
All of that is gathered up into the encounter.
So leading young people to meet Jesus Christ, to see him and hear him as someone who is presence and power now – that is the heart of what we need to do with our young people in schools, in our parish communities and anywhere that we meet them.