Ben was a very young and endearing student. His natural shyness at times mischaracterized as an introvert invited unwarranted ridicule and isolation from his fellow students. He appeared unfazed by the attention albeit negative more than positive. Nevertheless, he never tired in helping anyone in need even if his charitable intentions were often met with disdain. What is unique about Ben’s situation is that he naturally sought the high road in everything and appeared to never let any negative encounter thwart his intention to seek the high road. His demeanor reminded me of St. Paul’s exhortation to always seek everything from above where God dwells and not the things from below where the devil tends to prowl.
The encounter between the things from above-God and those from below-our own sin associated with the works of the devil does not propose an end toward the possibility of seeking Jesus Christ in all things. Ben never wavered in seeking Jesus Christ even when mocked for his perceived awkward introverted behavior. As St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Galatians, always be prepared to share the Word of God. One thing that stood out for me every time I observed Ben, he saw people around him differently, he saw them in need and was willing to address their needs before his own.
A unique Encounter
St. Bonaventure once said: “If you know Christ and nothing else, you know everything.” The fruit of this particular quote lies in what is inferred, “if you know Christ.” This operative phrase is very important if our attempt to deliver the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to address curiosity, build trust, and develop an atmosphere where a person can freely explore and engage the possibility of a relationship with Christ the King. If our desire for God is written in the human heart by nature of our creation in God’s image and likeness then any attempt to propose God’s love must express that God truly loves us because we bear His image and likeness.
When I first met Ben, I was not aware that he already knew me before I had hardly the opportunity to formally meet him. His first words to me were: “I see you.” Not missing a beat, he looked at me with a straight face and simply asked: “why do you smile at everyone?” Contemplating the profundity of his question and telling myself, “Don’t screw this up” I told him; “I smile at everyone because all of us are created with a unique dignity and worth by God that can never be taken away from anyone, period.” As he continued to look at me, he eventually smiled and simply said; “thank you.”
The Role of the Educator
As I found out later from his mother, Ben needed to know that there was someone who viewed people and the world as he did; through the lens of Jesus Christ. This strengthened him and gave him the resolve to “press on” and continue to seek the high ground in all aspects of his life. Ben’s story provides a sense of reality for anyone involved in catechesis either in a parish, school, adult or young adult setting. Our demeanor serves, whether we accept it or not as the “first instance” someone will encounter an example of the high road to God. When Jesus plucked the heads of grain and began to eat them on the Sabbath he was scolded and ridiculed by the Pharisees because as they understood, it was not lawful to eat on the sabbath. Jesus refutes them by expressing that there is something greater than the temple. He then elevates his position in front of the Pharisees explaining that He has come to desire mercy, not sacrifice. Then He rightfully identifies Himself as Lord of the sabbath. Jesus reminds us that there is something greater than ourselves and that is God Himself. Our role as Catholic educators is to demonstrate the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
Don’t be Itinerant
My interaction with Ben was a providential meeting of the minds because neither one of us was itinerant with our faith. Our intention was to put our faith into practice by affirming the dignity of the human person in our daily human encounters. Any fruitful evangelization process involves the demonstration of the Gospel “let it be known.” Our mission is to make sure Jesus Christ is visible to our student in word and deed. The is part of the Divine plan of salvation for all men. Thus, we carry the responsibility of being active visible witnesses of the Church Universal. This means our daily walk with Christ consists from the things from above, from God the Father.
There can be no denial that students watch a teacher’s every move. Thus, if our daily walk with Christ is authentically visible, it will be noticed, scrutinized, and questioned. It will also be viewed with a sense of hope for those who are in need of a visible witness in the name of Jesus Christ. The Church places great emphasis, and rightly so on the integrity of the content of the faith that comes from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the teaching office of the Church the Magisterium. Why is this important? Because the integrity of the content is Jesus Christ. The message of Jesus Christ must be clear and unmutilated just like a teacher’s missionary behavior within the classroom. Why is this important; because they’re watching.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted t us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.