Tuesday, May 7, 2019

a definite metanoia

I have given up all hope of adhering to the book in catechism class. The textbook is rigidly arranged in soporific lessons that do not attempt to market themselves to either a child with no theological knowledge whatsoever or to me, with a masters agree, the child's teacher. Therefore, I have mostly scrapped the lesson book for now and have decided that I will teach one lesson and one lesson only—vocation.

If I can make nothing else crystal-clear, I will make it known that there is a God who loves you who you are called to serve with your entire life. And that life you think God wants you to lead is not it—it's the life you're living now: of Instagram, Latin homework, gym on Wednesdays and basketball practice.

Along the way, I find myself teaching surprising tangents that are entirely new knowledge to a demographic I assume too much in. Today I taught twelve-year-olds the story of the Resurrection. As Baptized Catholics, they knew the general concept, but they had only the haziest concept of the details of the Resurrection narratives of Scripture: a Mary was involved and the door was open.

As I began to teach them who Doubting Thomas was, and then realized I had to explain the whole deal, I think I got a whiff of that kerygma-high the first Apostles must have felt when narrating these events for the first time:

And then—Jesus walked through the door. Like a ghost, right? Walking through walls. Like a spirit. And then—do you know what Jesus said next? He says: give me some bread. So they give him bread and guess what—he eats it.

Can ghosts eat?
No. Didn’t think so.

*drops the mic*

He says: touch my wounds. And they touch his body.

Isn't that crazy?!

As I look around the table of scandalized and skeptic faces of small men just old enough to be rational and just young enough to be impressed I realize that these stories are really satisfying narratively—they're dazzlingly odd. And these children are old enough to sense their strangeness. I was taught the story of Resurrection when I was still in an age of enchantment: the world is all sort of magic when you haven't figured out any of its mechanisms, and I hadn't. The Resurrection's singularity was obscured by the general mythic haze of miracle that ringed my world. But for these students, the Resurrection is an interruption of enchantment into an otherwise explicable world.

It is exhilarating.

So I taught them Resurrection, and then wrapped the lesson back around to my main point: which was that Francis Xavier's pre-Jesuit existence is fairly of-a-piece with his missionary existence. He liked socializing, he liked talking, he liked reading and persuasive rhetoric and galvanizing listeners. His unique personality was not erased by grace but elevated and perfected.

He didn't have to change to become a saint, I conclude triumphantly, armchair buddha, ensconced in my halo of anointed enlightenment, inviting others into my zen.

He had to change one thing, said the least-attentive voice in class, he didn't love God before, and then he did.

He couldn't live his life for himself, he had to give it over to God, to live out of love for God. To be himself, but not-quite-himself now: to be a self that was living for someone else.

They ask me:
Is that what you're trying to do, too?

Which, I imagine, must have been the response of the first audiences to the first evangelists.

You must change your life.

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