It is not easy being a follower of Jesus Christ. Throughout His public ministry, Jesus called people to repent of their sins, to go the extra mile, to turn the other cheek, and to give to those in need. He even said that the person who saves his life will lose it and the person who loses his life will save it.
Jesus was not content that His followers merely observe the commandments of religion; He wanted them to go beyond doing just the minimum that is expected, to doing the most. He called his followers to maximum religious performance rather than the bare minimum.
So, is it any wonder that so many people during Jesus’ public ministry found Him to be altogether too demanding and abandoned following Him? Is it any wonder that this phenomenon continues to this day in the Church when we hear the Church calling us to maximum religious performance rather than minimum effort? You will note in the Gospels that Jesus never goes chasing after people who abandoned Him. He let them go.
If we are to be true stewards, faithful to the model of discipleship that Jesus envisions for his followers, we as Catholics cannot be content with the status quo. We must continually examine our personal faith life and our parish life to see how we can become individuals and a community that take seriously Jesus’ call to do the most for God and Church, rather than the least.
One of the best ways for a stewardship parish to strive for “maximum performance” and discipleship is to get the parents more actively involved in the catechesis of their children preparing for the Sacraments. Sunday Mass, of course, is the foundation of our participation in parish life from which all other participation flows. Here at my parish, St. Joseph in Macon, Ga., our religious education department works hard to present a model of sacramental preparation that challenges our young people and parents to understand the sacrificial aspect of being a Catholic and to put their faith in God and participation in the Church above other more mundane experiences in life. In a sense, a parish community should challenge its young people — much like a coach would challenge an athlete — to do the most for God and Church in order to build a strong and vibrant faith.
As we form our children in the ways of our Faith, and as adult Catholics continue their own formation, will we be content with “C-minus” religious effort, or will we strive to be A-plus Catholics who work hard at making that “A-plus”?