As we moved into the question-and-answer portion of my in-service to the staff of the Catholic school, one of the teachers asked how she should teach the Catholic faith to her non-Catholic students. The question was precipitated by my closing remarks about the importance of the teacher expressing a sincere attraction and desire in front of their students to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. I explained that what moves a student to believe that Jesus is real is those around him who genuinely believe in the Son of God as God. This is where the role of the believing community catalyzes fostering a genuine sense of conversion to those within.
Another point I made to the faculty is that human beings are genuinely attracted to authenticity-truth and love. The idea that someone is genuine with their behavior and is concerned for someone else’s well-being over their own is very attractive and loving. This example is part of the salvific drama played out in the Paschal Mystery event, where Jesus demonstrates the reality of his life, death, and resurrection as the path to the salvation of mankind.
Returning to the teacher who asked how she should teach the Catholic faith to her non-Catholic students, I told her, do not deviate from teaching them to the truth of the Catholic Church. After an initial pause, she looked at me, relieved and said, “Okay, this makes perfect sense.”
Called to teach Jesus Christ
The Catechism reminds us: Whoever is called “to teach Christ” must first seek “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus”; he must suffer “the loss of all things . . .” to “gain Christ and be found in him and “to know the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that, if possible, he may attain the resurrection from the dead.
The premise behind this reference in the Catechism is derived from St. Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians, where he reminds the brethren that we are called to lose everything for having a surpassing worth of knowing that Jesus Christ is my Lord. The simplicity of this passage is its singular proclamation that there is one Christ, one Lord, and one Church. This reality, I argue, should spur us to unveil what the Church identifies as the Deposit of Faith based on Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium-teaching office of the Church. There should be no deviation from this visible reality.
As I continued to take questions from the teachers, I explained to them that our responsibility as teachers is to consent to live a life worthy of the Gospel. This means a turning away from sin-metanoia and an acceptance of the truth of Jesus Christ. There should be no shame in telling the truth with charity and clarity. The grace to speak the truth in love involves a willingness to spiritually die to ourselves and rise with Christ even amid enduring persecution.
Another point I shared with the teachers is the tendency to think that deviating from teaching the Catholic faith to non-Catholic students will help them understand Catholicism’s nature and premise. The reality of this fallacy is that this form of thought will distance the student from understanding who Jesus Christ is and what he did for us. A student will resonate will authenticity and truth even if he does not comprehend it thoroughly. It serves as an initial entryway into investigating the reality of Jesus Christ. In his letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul reminds us: Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me your prisoner, but take your share of suffering for the Gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus.
In the following meditation, St. Benedict reminds us about the importance of not deviating from the Catholic faith:
Carry out God’s commandments in what you do every day. Embrace chastity. Hate no one. Do not be jealous or give in to feelings of envy. Do not take pleasure in disputes. Avoid pride, respect your elders and care for those younger than yourself. Pray for your enemies in the love of Christ. Before the day’s end, be reconciled with anyone with whom you have a disagreement. Never despair of God’s mercy.