In our Second Reading St. Peter tells us, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” That is telling us we should have a thorough knowledge of our religion.
A few weeks ago newspapers gave space to a survey taken on Christians’ knowledge of their religion. I don’t have a copy of the questions and the results, but I do remember that as a whole we were found to be stunningly ignorant.
My first twelve years in the priesthood that I spent in Korea have inclined me to see that ignorance as a major cause for worry. Over there we missionaries put all our emphasis on the need for Catholics to know their religion. In the spring before Easter every Catholic was made to come before the priest to be quizzed on the catechism. Children had to know twelve catechism answers. Old people had to know sixty, and everyone in between was responsible for answering a hundred and sixty questions similar to what Americans used to have in their Baltimore Catechisms.
That was good in its way, but it was lopsided, because there is more to being Christians than being able to rattle off catechism answers.
I was much taken with Avery Dulles’s book Models of the Church. He showed how Jesus came to us in five distinct roles. He was servant, friend, teacher, shepherd, and way to the Father. Dulles then said that if we are to carry on Christ’s mission, we must engage in those same roles. To be just teachers, the way we were in Korea, was wrong. To be just servants to the poor the way Liberation Theology would have us carry on, or to engage in hug-arounds with Pentecostals is not enough. To have a one on one relationship with God with no mixing with people is wrong too.
To see where you stand as a Christian you should check yourself on five matters. Do you know your religion? Do you love your neighbor? Do you go to the Father in prayer? Do you serve the needs of the poor? Do you honor church authority?