The Final Exam

Rev. Ray Harris

The semester is swiftly coming to a close. Many students have assignments to complete. They are preparing for the closing week of the semester in which final examinations are taken. Examinations are supposed to measure how much a student has understood what was taught in the course. Most professors do not want the student to simply regurgitate what was said in the lecture. They want to see if the lessons that the students have learned can be articulated in the students own words.

God has given us the gift of life. He wants us to be good stewards of this gift. Divine love invites us to live in communion with God, wanting what God wants in our lives. That means that we must be open to listening to His teachings, learning the meaning of these lessons. Then we must strive to live them out. At the end of our lives, God will ask us how we chose to love in response to His invitation. How were these choices reflected in our conduct?

We do not have to be anxious about this final examination if we know the material. Previously, I wrote that the question, ‘What would Jesus Do?’ becomes a dangerous and subjective slogan unless it is backed up by the substance of listening to what Jesus says, seeing what Jesus does, and hearing what Jesus teaches through the Church. Otherwise the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ becomes the subjective statement, ‘What I would want Jesus to do.’

For the Catholic Christian, our primary textbooks for living are the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In the last issue, I wrote about the importance of reading the Bible. Now I want to write briefly about the importance of reading the Catechism.

It is important to know what the Church teaches and why she teaches it. Theology has been called a process of ‘faith seeking understanding.’ However, this is not just the task of the theologian. All disciples of Christ should seek to learn what the Church teaches and how it fits into ‘the big picture.’

The Catechism of the Catholic Church examines the teachings of the Church through the Faith that is: (1) professed in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds; (2) celebrated in the worship of the Church; (3) lived out through our adherence to the Ten Commandments; and (4) prayed according to the model of the Lords Prayer (or ‘The Our Father’). Instead of looking to a secular newspaper or opinion polls to interpret what the Catholic Church teaches on a particular matter, we should look to the Catechism as our guide.

James Lease, a seminarian from the Diocese of Harrisburg writes that reading this book and reflecting upon its message was a major factor that contributed to his decision to join the Catholic Church several years ago. He writes, "Growing up in a rural community, I encountered two basic camps: liberal, mainline Protestantism and fundamentalism. I was skeptical of both: the one seemed apt to reason its way out of a difficult teaching or make light of a central doctrine, like the Trinity (c.f. John 6:60), and the other seemed to draw its doctrine from a less than complete reading of Scripture, while demanding strict adherence to its tenets nonetheless. Thus, I grew up seeing a rift between faith and reason, a rift that I knew should have never existed.

‘When I encountered the Catechism, I discovered an ordered, coherent, reasonable biblical exposition of the Christian faith and life. I found that faith and reason were very happily married. I also found that the core of Christian beliefs, Trinity, Incarnation, and Paschal Mystery, were at the heart of the Catechism's exposition of the faith. I found the Christ, who through his cross and resurrection, redeems the whole human person and refashions one in the image of God."

The Catechism does not have to be approached as a dry textbook. Reading its reflections on what it means to be a follower of Christ within the fellowship of the Church, in addition to using it as a resource for studies and dealing with moral questions, can aid us in knowing what God wants for our lives. The Catechism is available at the Office of Campus Ministry and Community Service and the bookstore. If you do not have it, then I urge you to buy it. In addition to the Bible, it is one of our primary textbooks for living.

Life is short. We need to live our lives from an eternal perspective, learning what it means to enjoy life in a godly way. The Christian life is not one of drudgery. Our lives can be driven with a sense of delight that we are children of God, destined to live in an eternal communion with Him. If we are able to articulate this belief through our attitudes and actions, then we will be ready for the final examination.

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