More prep for tomorrow's radio show on EWTN (1-2 p.m. Eastern)
What do I wish I would have learned in my 13 years of Catholic school, but didn't?
I don't recall any clear teaching when I was in school on what we
Christians mean when we say we have been MADE God's children in
baptism. No clear teaching on the operations of grace.
communicated to me by teachers was that God expected us to be good
people, and that the judgment at the end of our lives was basically God
weighing our good and bad actions in a scale. Those who came up on the
good side would need some purification in purgatory but were going to
heaven. If you did more bad then you were going to hell. Alright, that isn't what you find in the New Testament; and that isn't what the Catholic Church teaches.
was taught that God the Father had adopted me, that Jesus came to me in
the Eucharist, and that I would receive the Holy Spirit in
Confirmation, and that's all of course true; but I wasn't taught the
audacious truth that God Himself, the Blessed Trinity had already come
to live in me in Baptism. I became His Temple. My body and soul are
Jesus wanted to love and pour Himself out to His Father and brothers and sisters, in the Holy Spirit, through me!
I was to be another Christ in the world; that was why I had been
created. I was already in an intimate, personal relationship with all
three members of the Blessed Trinity; and I should expect it to deepen
throughout the course of my life - expect to see God doing things in and
all around me.
This is the dignity of Christian children. This
is where our moral teaching becomes more than a laundry list of right
and wrong. Instead we understand that we must do the actions of Jesus.
We do not lie, we do not degrade our bodies or use
other people's bodies as toys because we could never imagine Jesus
doing that. And He lives in us!
The good that we do isn't done
under our own power. It is Jesus living and acting in us through the
Holy Spirit. It's the grace of God. We say yes, we cooperate with it
and, as St. Paul says, become God's coworkers. We will inherit eternal
life not because the things we've done under our own power have tallied
up to 51% good, and only 49% bad, so God owes us life in heave. We
enter life in heaven because we've already been living it here below:
Jesus giving Himself to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, through us!
I will forever sing the praises of my teacher sophomore year, Mr.
Burns. He was Jewish by birth, Catholic by belief; and he taught me an
incredible semester course on the synoptic gospels with close attention
to their first century context. He also gave me a good look at the two
creation stories we find in Genesis.
But we never attempted to
study the writings of Paul, that's 2/3 of the N.T. And we certainly
never ventured into the Book of Revelation! We didn't actually read the
OT's historical books or chart the images of Jesus that run through the
OT from Genesis to the Wisdom Books and Prophets.
had classes on morality and the Sacraments that told me what we
Catholics believe; but it wasn't explained WHY we believed these
things. It wasn't properly anchored in the truth that "This is what God
has revealed - through His Church and the natural law. Here let
me show you ..." There is something about us human beings that when we are told what
we are to believe, but not WHY it is true, we come to assume there
ISN'T a reason.
A thought: what if we made Scripture our primary text in
Catholic schools, and it was read in the light of the Fathers and the
great Tradition of the Church, the way Vatican II instructed us to read
Scripture? What if someone had read John 6 with me and stopped there to
unfold our belief in Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist?
someone had read Matthew 16 and stopped to unpack what it meant for
Jesus to give Peter the Keys of the Kingdom and to appoint him as the rock on which He would build the Church.
What if my teacher had said,
"The First Epistle of Peter (5:13) alludes to his presence in Rome and we have
writings beginning before 100 A.D. that witness to the bishops who
succeeded Peter in Rome having pure, binding teaching and a
responsibility for leading the entire Church?" What if he was able to
show me the writings of Irenaus of Lyons in 185 A.D. where he records
Peter's successors up until that point, and claims that
all Christians must be in agreement with the great Tradition that has
come down to us through them?