Teaching: To Pursue The Truth Together

Teaching: To Pursue The Truth Together

I’ve spent a great deal of the summer considering how this next school year will unfurl.  Each fall, I start with the hopes that this will be the best year ever.  And, in many ways, that has largely proven to be true.  The more I teach, the more confident I feel teaching.  The longer I am there and the more experiences I have, the more prepared I feel to handle future problems and situations.  Yet despite all of my preparations and extra reading I do during the summer, one thing is certain: I will never be perfectly prepared for every question they ask me.

Honestly, I think I am able to answer most of the questions that arise in the classroom.  If I have never considered the question or even heard the answer, I am surprised how often I am able to give an answer anyway.  I’m not lying to them or just trying to look smart.  I’ve come to realize that the longer one knows the Lord and studies His Church, the better one is able to think with the mind of the Church.  So even if that question has never been posed to me before, I can often give a pretty confident answer because I have come to know and understand the Church to a degree.

There is, however, a lingering concern that I will be unable to answer a question.  Or, worse yet, that my lack of knowledge will appear to mean that the Church has never considered that question or that her theology is found wanting.  Regarding those fears, I think back to the summer before my first year of teaching.  I was presenting these concerns to a trusted priest and he asked if I thought that a student could ask a question that the Church couldn’t answer or that would prove her wrong.  I told him that I was certain the Church had answers and that I trusted her to be true in all things she affirmed as true.  For him, that was the end of it.  So what if I didn’t know the answer?  I knew the Church had an answer and I was fairly confident I could find it if needed.

For the last five years, that is what I have sought to do.  To a generation that I struggle to understand, I have striven to present truths they struggle to find relevant or accurate.  I ask them to consider the truths of the Church and they echo Pilate by saying, “What is truth?”  They question if it matters to know the truth.  They ask if everything could be true.  And I try to use logic and personal examples to show them the beauty of knowing and pursuing the truth.   Continue reading “Teaching: To Pursue The Truth Together”

As Promised, He Remains

As Promised, He Remains

Several months ago, I was making a mild attempt to listen to the overpowering political discourse, if it can be called that.  As I heard one awful thing after another, I found myself seeking for something to hold onto, some hope or reassurance that things wouldn’t get as bad as some thought.  That is when I remembered–Christ said that He would never allow anything to overcome….Oh.  Yeah.  

Christ promised that nothing would overcome the Church.  Of the United States of America, Christ made no comment.  He didn’t prophesy that this nation would come in several centuries and would be indomitable.  Throughout Scripture, we hear about how the Lord will remain and endure.  Throughout history, we see nation after nation fall.  There are uprisings and reformations, divisions and unifications.  All is changing and all is temporal.

Except the Lord.

He remains.  He endures.  He is steadfast.  He is “I AM WHO AM.”  He is existence itself.  And He promised that His Church would remain until the end of time.  He promised persecution, the cross, and many difficulties, too.  But, He would always remain.

I don’t happen to think our nation is on the verge of dissolving.  However, I do think it is clear that we need prayer and that we need the Lord.  While I am fully aware of the separation of Church and state, I am also aware that one of the longest running institutions is the Catholic Church.  It isn’t such because the leaders have been flawless; on the contrary, they were deeply flawed from the very beginning.  The Gospels are replete with accounts of the fumbles and foibles of the Apostles.  If the Church has not endured because of the perfection of Her members, it must endure because of the perfection of the Lord.   Continue reading “As Promised, He Remains”

His Terrifying Vulnerability

His Terrifying Vulnerability

There is a terrifying vulnerability in how His arms are outstretched.

I’m not certain I had ever quite seen it that way before.  At Sunday Mass, I was looking up at the large crucifix behind the altar and I was slightly fearful.  That wide open heart, that vulnerable heart, that posture of being unable to defend oneself is what He wants from me.  And it scares me.

A nail pierces each hand, fixing them in place.  He is unable to shield Himself from anything: not the hurled insults, not the mockery, not the physical blows should it come to that.  Briefly, I pictured myself unable to curl up into a ball to protect my heart, to shield my face.  It was terrifying.  I would not be simply defenseless before loved ones but before my enemies.  That place of weakness seemed to be too much to bear.  At least in the face of persecution and mockery, I like to appear to be strong and resilient.

And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!  (Luke 23:35-37)

Continue reading “His Terrifying Vulnerability”

Small Heart

Small Heart

Oh, you of little faith.  Oh, you of little heart.

Jesus is calling us to cast out into the deep.  But isn’t it easier to not?  It is easier to stay on the shallow side.  Yet we long for the depths, for the great things that can happen on the other end of the pool, the other end of the lake.  Sometimes we just wish it wasn’t so deep.

“You desire greatness, but you keep your heart small.”  The Lord told me this during my retreat and I had to admit that it was true.  I was in one of my favorite Scripture passages–Jeremiah 18–and the Lord was the potter at the wheel, shaping and forming my heart.  Over the next few days, I spent time considering the ways I keep my heart small.  I’m sure my list was not exhaustive, but there were a few convicting realizations.  The small heart is often maintained because of fear.  Fear that expanding the heart will mean pain or disappointment.  Jesus, though, is asking me to cast out into the deep.  “Do not be afraid…”  Ah, Jesus, but I am.

In conversation this past week, I came to a renewed realization of the necessity of seeking healing for the sake of myself and for others.  My small heart, if it expanded, could be a catalyst for others to let their hearts grow.  If I allow my heart’s state to be dictated by how others respond, then why couldn’t I flip that around?  Why can’t my choice to be large-hearted move others to embrace the same?  Even if it doesn’t, my internal freedom will be transforming my own heart.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

He calls us to cast out into the deep.  Not content to simply tell us, He models the pathway for us.  He casts His net into the depths of our hearts, the places we hoped were sufficiently covered, the areas we ourselves had almost forgotten.  And He shines His light there, His mercy a mantle covering it all.  Then He turns the net over to us and asks us to do the same.  Cast deep into my heart, He says.  Go deeper, plunge further in.  In the safety of such a vast heart, we are then able to let Him plumb the depths of our own.  We will want Him to bring all to light and we won’t resist when He pushes the edges of our heart, widening the chambers to be filled with more of Him.

There is a greatness of heart that awaits us if we relinquish our clasp on our small hearts.  Give the Potter free reign over the size of your heart and follow His lead in casting into the deep.  Who knows what you will catch?

Rise and Take Up Your Mat

“Do you want to be healed?”

Of all the questions Jesus asks in the Gospels, this is one of the ones that I find most provoking.  The setting is Jerusalem and He is speaking to a man who has been paralyzed and lying on his mat for 38 years.  My sarcastic nature wants to respond to Jesus with raised eyebrows and a retort of, “Of course he does!  He has been lying there for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS!”  The answer seems obvious to me.  This provoking question is why this is one of my favorite passages to discuss with my sophomores.  (I have many favorite passages…I’m not certain how many, but a lot.  Favorite depends on the day.)

Why would Jesus waste the time to ask this poor man if he wanted to be healed?  From outside the situation, we assume that healing is what is desired.  In this situation, the man desires healing and he finds it in Jesus Christ.  However, Scripture is the living Word of God, which means that there is something in this passage for me in 2015.  Jesus is presenting the same question to me today: Do you want to be healed?

One of the highlights of teaching is when you can, as an entire class, deeply enter into the passage.  Their fidgeting ceases and the room feels still.  This is where the encounter happens, I believe.  The class is led through a lecture/conversation that is like the following.  We are quick to realize the necessity of physical healing—few would have a broken leg and drag themselves around on it, insisting that it will get better or that it is no big deal.  Yet we do this with our internal wounds all the time.  Jesus pinpoints our wound and asks as the gentle God that He is, “Can I heal this?”  He asks if we want it.

As a class we discussed possible reasons why the paralytic might be scared of being healed.  Perhaps he wonders if the healing will last, maybe he doesn’t want to get his hopes up that it could happen, and perhaps he will walk oddly or trip when he walks.  I asked them in what was his identity rooted.  After being a paralytic for 38 years, it would make sense if that was how he primarily thought of himself–as someone who couldn’t walk, someone who felt abandoned by God.  Yet to be healed would mean that his identity must change–he would no longer have the characteristic he used to define himself.  That change could be frightening.  We began to see how the man is brave to seek healing from Jesus.  In seeing the importance of the paralytic accepting Jesus’ healing, we saw how we also needed to embrace the healing that Christ offers.  Ours may not be a visible, physical healing, but rather an internal one.  Yet if the Healer desires to heal, shouldn’t we embrace that?

We live in a wounded culture.  I hate that we are so wounded, yet I love that sometimes I am able to point to this woundedness and proclaim, “In the beginning, it was not so!”  We are longing for wholeness and perfection because we were made to desire that.  But first we need to see ourselves where we are—we are the paralyzed man, lying vulnerably before the Giver of all good gifts, being asked if we want to be made whole.  May we have the courage to say ‘Yes’ and to embrace all that will come of being healed, particularly if it means coming to a deeper understanding of our identity as a child of God.

“Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” Jn. 5:8