Lessons on faith from first grade
A Reflection for Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Find today’s readings here.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:19)
When I was in first grade at a Catholic elementary school, our weekly “Library” class was taught by a woman religious named Sister Helen. Sister Helen sometimes dipped into lessons about the Dewey Decimal System, but she seemed to have a greater interest in conveying to us lessons about our Catholic faith. As we colored photocopies of saint pictures, she would bounce around the room narrating the excitement and holiness that could be found in their lives and which, she suggested, we could emulate.
I am reminded of Sister Helen by today’s readings, which emphasize the importance of passing on the faith through both word and example. In our efforts to live out our faith, it is all too easy to focus on one or the other of these tasks, to convince ourselves it is what we tell people about God that really matters, or that it is only what we do to convey the faith in our lives that matters. But in today’s readings, Jesus reminds us that both are crucial to a holy life. Both are part of our tradition and both must be used to convey that tradition to others.
It’s easy, too, to feel unworthy of conveying the faith in either word or deed, to ask how could I be qualified to teach others? But it is helpful to remember that, just prior to today’s Gospel verses, in the same chapter of Mark, Jesus has just preached about the beatitudes, which help to express the essence of our faith: to be among those who are meek and merciful, those who seek peace and righteousness.
Luckily, we have plenty of examples of how to do this: Jesus’ own life, of course, and the saints that followed his example, and the saintly women religious who followed theirs (perhaps at the cost of attention to the library card catalog). May each of us take this call seriously, take the time to absorb the lessons from the examples of holy men and women, and to “not to forget the things which [our] own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from [our] memory as long as [we] live.”