The Gospel Truth

I’ve just finished reading The Gospel Truth: A Lectionary-Based Catechism for Adults, by Kenneth Ogorek, sent to me by The Catholic Company. For each of the Sunday liturgies in all three cycles, the book includes the Gospel reading, a short discussion linked to relevent sections of the Catechism, three questions for reflection (one intended for children) and some suggestions for further reading from both scripture and the Catechism.

The author’s goal was to create a resource especially (although not excluvisely) intended for homilists to help them to tie the Sunday Mass readings to Catholic teaching as elucidated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is clearly also the author’s hope that the book might serve as a resource for faith sharing and prayer groups outside of the Mass setting as well.

When I first came back to Catholicism after spending more than two decades as a Buddhist, one of the first things I did was to read the Catechism from beginning to end. Having left Catholicism while still in high school, it seemed to me to be a good way to move toward an adult understanding of the Catholic faith. Thus, I applaud the idea of finding a way to expose more Catholics to Church teaching.

The problem with using the Lectionary of Sunday Mass readings as the vehicle for conveying the Catechism is that many of the choices made by the author of which section or sections of the Catechism to tie to a particular Gospel reading seem strained. To give one example, in the discussion provided for St. Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, one of the two Catechism sections used is paragraph 2051, addressing the infallibality of the Pope. How one gets papal infallibality from the Transfiguration is beyond me; the author attempts to draw a link from Peter’s “babbl[ing] something barely coherent – something about making tents” in the Gospel to his transformation by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It seems to me that better lessons can be drawn from the Transfiguration.

Apart from the sometimes strained links between the Gospel and Catechism passages, the biggest drawback for me was that the effort to cover all three lectionary cycles in a single volume almost guarantees that the discussion of each will be somewhat superficial. I appreciate that the discussions are intended to be fairly basic, but their brevity means they raise questions they can’t explore. Thus, for example, one entry includes the statement, “The legitimate diversity in our Catholic Church reminds us that while unity is supremely important, it need not always mean complete uniformity,” a statement that begs for some elucidation of how one determines when uniformity is important and when it is not. The questions following the discussion are of mixed quality, some inviting real depth and others seeming to raise yes/no questions that don’t seem destined to facilitate any meaninful reflection.

Having said that, I agree with the author’s assessment that this book is “a good step in a good direction.” It represents a worthwhile effort to help facilitate reflection on the Sunday Gospels and to create at least some familiarity with the Catechism.