I’ve learned some lessons the hard way. As a teacher I’ve done things that I thought would work really well but did not. I’ve said things that I thought they would understand and yet I could not believe how horrible they would misconstrue them. So sometimes I am left understanding that I made a mistake yet not certain how to actually do it the correct way. That obviously didn’t work. But what will?
My first year of teaching (way back last year) I talked to my classes about objective truth, subjective truth, and how the Church has the “fullness of truth.” The phrase rolled off my tongue easily after hearing it said with great love and passion at Franciscan. Little did I realize that this was, to some of my students, a very offensive thing to say. Some were pretty upset with me and I was baffled as to why they would feel such emotions.
The Church has the fullness of truth. Wouldn’t nearly 12 years of Catholic school lead them to see the beauty of such a statement? I said it as fact and they resented it. I paid for my “sin” the rest of the semester. I was a new teacher, a bit timid, trying to preach the Gospel, and ending up making students dislike me and the Church. That was how I felt, at least.
So I became a little gun-shy of the statement “fullness of truth” because I knew what a powder keg it could be. Yet isn’t the truth of the Church supposed to be explosive? It radically transformed the world as it was and, if unleashed, can do the same thing in our modern world. Yet I waver. I wonder if I will push the students away more if I speak too strongly. Yet I refuse to water Theology class down to “Jesus loves you.” I want to delve into that truth. “Jesus loves you and so He gave His life for you. Suffered and died for you. His human heart ached for you. He loves you at every breath you take and wills your very heart to keep beating. That is what I mean by love.”
So when the “fullness of truth” phrase came up today in one of my classes I was hesitant yet determined to speak clearly. While being gentle and charitable, I wanted to not be apologetic. I didn’t want to say:
“Yes, the Church believes she has the fullness of truth but I am very sorry that she says it like that. She could just say she thinks she is correct…it would be essentially the same thing. Let’s just say the Church is a really good institutional body but sometimes we let it go to our heads.”
OK, perhaps a bit dramatic but I didn’t want to give them the wrong impression by swinging my gavel down and condemning the rest of humanity to Hell. I don’t think that but students can conjure up rather impressive falsehoods in their minds.
I said the Church has the fullness of truth. That to hide this truth or to claim to be just another church, any one of which would be fine to join, when we believe that it was instituted by Christ Himself would be a lie. Christ was pretty dogmatic. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” That statement doesn’t leave much room to follow some other way. He also was known to anger people and to upset modern notions. Perhaps that is what we need today.
Tomorrow I might be facing a class full of students who have thought about what I said and have thrown me in a camp of Catholics who think they are better than everyone else. Maybe I will find another tempest brewing for this semester. Whatever may come, I hope they know of my sincerity to teach the truth and, despite all of my fumbles and quirks, that they will come to know Jesus Christ in a deeper way. The real Jesus Christ who desires to break into our lives, wreck havoc, and bring us to Heaven. The fullness of Heaven.