Better to discuss than to lecture
In our postmodern way of free thinking, does the word lecture come across as rather dictatorial? It possibly does even more than the words ‘sermon’ or ‘homily’; all of these are occasions for someone to tell another one what to do.
In all kinds of social discourse there seems to be an element of “I have a right to my own opinion”. That is correct in terms of the Constitution. And yet there is so much we can learn and need to be taught, whatever our age or life experience.
Education, I sometimes say, is wasted on the young. Isn’t it not true that more mature learners do so out of a desire for knowledge and for their own enjoyment and personal growth?
Some members of families attend various Lenten lectures and programmes, and each year there seem to be more on offer. This year, in the context of the Year of Mercy, there are special missions too where input is given for reflection.
How can this be done at home, in families? Can families, and family catechesis, come on board to inform, form, educate, enrich ourselves and one another?
Faith-formation is a family responsibility, but are lectures the answer in this type of context? Or is a process of input, reflection, scripture, sharing and prayer such as the “See, Judge, Act” process a more useful format?
There must be an element of informing but a minimum of “lecturing,” certainly with children and teenagers. An ideal setup for family faith-sharing is for one person to do some preparation on a topic and guide the process where others are given a chance to express their opinions and be accepted and possibly gently challenged if necessary. I believe that is a merciful approach.
Take the topic of life and of abortion. The Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, in their Mass which observed the Termination of Pregnancy Bill which took effect in February 1997, asked for prayers for those impacted and for a change of heart.
Pope Francis, on this and other difficult moral issues says, stresses that God alone is the judge. In his Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy), the pope raises many issues in general: conversion, corruption, care for “our wounded brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity”. He constantly reminds us of God’s merciful love, saying: “Jesus is the Face of the Father’s mercy.”
On the question of the poor, however, he speaks out strongly, to governments and all leaders—including us—as in his Lenten message this year.
Referring to Mary and her prayer, the Magnificat, he refers to the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy”. He calls for the need for conversion on their part.
“By taking this path, the ‘proud’, the ‘powerful’ and the ‘wealthy’ spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them.
“This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is hell.”
There is much that families can and should talk about, sharing the Church’s teaching, examining Scripture, reflecting on our views and our experiences and praying for right actions.
Lent is a good time to make a commitment to spend an hour or more together at least once a week on a variety of topics, not all serious but also joyful.
The family theme for February is “Love is at the heart of mercy”, indicated on the Family Year Planner and supported by Marfam’s short reflections and longer articles.
Maybe mini-lectures, with discussion, sharing, Scripture and prayer that lead us to reflect on how loving and merciful we can be this Lent can bring us face to face with Jesus himself, and to see his face in others.
I came across a card given to my late husband Chris and me years ago which are attributed to one Hardin Marshall. It reads: “The same faith that draws us closer to the Lord, holds us close to one another.”
As a truly family-friendly suggestion on the topic of Holy Doors I want to suggest that on Family Day in South Africa on Easter Monday the special parishes keep an “Open Door” for families to visit as families together, possible anytime of the day to spend a little time together with Jesus and the Father. A leaflet could be available.
More information on this idea on www.marfam.org.za.