Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Children and the prophets

The prophets are a rich source for catechesis. It is best, when introducing a study of the prophets to children age 9 and older, to begin by looking together at the Rite of Baptism. Draw their attention to the Rite of Anointing with Chrism, when the celebrant prays over the person being baptized:

“God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

Explain that in the Old Testament, anointing was used to consecrate priests, prophets, and kings. Then take some time to explore what a prophet is:

The task of the prophet is, above all, to listen to God. Prophets live in close relationship with God, heeding the Lord, not only with their ears, but with their hearts. Prophets are consumed with love for God, and their function in the community is to communicate the fruit of this deep, loving listening, so as to ignite the hearts of the people with the same love. In reminding the community of God’s saving actions throughout history, prophets also inspire people to certain faith and hope that God will perform even mightier deeds in the future.

With the children, explore what the prayer from the Rite Of Anointing could mean: How was Christ anointed? Explore the account of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River (Mark 1:9-11). With what sort of “oil” was Jesus anointed? Explain to the children the meaning of the title, “Christ” and of the word, “Messiah.” Then read together Luke 4:16-21.

Reread the prayer from the Rite of Anointing, and remind the children that at their Baptism, they were anointed with sacred chrism. Point out the similarities between the words “chrism” and “Christ.” If Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, what does that have to do with us? How are we “members of his body”? What does this unity with Christ mean? At Baptism, what are we being called to?

Then consult the Lectionary to choose one or two of the first readings for any of the liturgies during Advent. Take some time to explore the imagery they contain:

What is a “shoot” and have we ever seen one sprout from a stump? What does Isaiah wish us to understand with this image? What is dead and “chopped down” in us? What is the “bud” that the Lord will cause to blossom from the roots of this dead stump? Why do we think of new shoots and blossoming buds during Advent, the darkest, coldest time of the year?

Why do the prophets speak of God’s “mountain”? What does a high mountain make us think about? What are swords and ploughshares? What are they used for? What is the difference between them? What is the “garden” or “farm” that the Lord wishes us to plow and prune?

What is the Light that the prophets tell us that we should walk in? What can we see in this Light?
What is this “desert” that the prophets describe? Do we know of anything in our own neighborhood that is like a “desert”? What would it mean for this desert to “bloom”? What sort of “water” will makes something grow in this desert?

When the prophet says, “we are the clay and you the potter,” what is he trying to express about our relationship to God?

Then take some time to reflect on Isaiah 11:1-10 (the First Reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A):
How can the wolf be the guest of the lamb? What do wolves usually eat? What is like a “wolf” in our experience? What does it eat? How could this “wolf” change its diet? Who is this “little child”?

Explore the reading for the Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle B), Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11:

Who is “Jerusalem”? Perhaps you can make reference to the new Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, to help the children see that while “Jerusalem” is a reference to the Church, it is also a name for the Church of the future, the heavenly Church of the Parousia. Look together at the image: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.” What are these “valleys” and “mountains”? What purpose does it serve to make the “earth” so flat? If the whole surrounding country were flat, would that make it easier to “see” the Mountain of the Lord? Finally, take some time to examine the image of the shepherd that appears in the final verses of the reading. Why does the prophet describe the Lord as a shepherd? Who are these lambs and ewes he speaks of? What other Scriptures do these verses call to mind? Perhaps examine the parable of the good shepherd from Luke 15 and John 10, if there is time.

In all these reflections with the children, make certain that they have seen and recognize the overwhelming images of joy and new birth that run like a golden thread through them. To conclude the meditation, ask them why, during Advent, we should be invited to look ahead, to these joyful realities that have been promised. Ask them to consider what this may mean for the season of Advent.

No comments:

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."