As someone who has been teaching high school and college now for more than fourteen years, it has become life’s daunting task to motivate students. In an age of instant communication, a teacher needs to be able to convey subject material in a way that is both ever dramatic and always engaging. It used to be a concern to worry about a bad day; now, one has to worry about an un-engaging minute.
As we prepare to start another spring semester, I was attempting to think of new ways to motivate young people. I was drawn to the Holy Father’s homily on the Feast of the Epiphany. The Pope was speaking about, like the Magi, keeping our gaze on the star and, in doing so, following the great desires of our heart. The Pope followed that up by encouraging us not to live a life of mediocrity or playing it safe but to always follow what is true and beautiful.
For so many of my students, and for all of us, we can so easily skate toward mediocrity and playing it safe that life becomes one dull routine. The radicalness of the Incarnation demands that each of us live a life of boldness and challenge. In a culture that each day loses all touch with the true and the beautiful we need to challenge our students and our children with the fact that our world needs heroes. If you demand nothing you will get nothing; but, if you demand the moon maybe you might be fortunate enough to land somewhere near the star that the Magi were following.
Above and Beyond
The Pope challenged his audience to press on beyond the darkness and to not be deceived by what the world considers great, wise and powerful. This is a message that teachers and parents, on a daily basis, need to impress upon their students. This is incredibly difficult especially when teaching in a public school in which so many students have little faith background. Yet if we truly believe that each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God, then we must also contend that each and every one of us yearns for God and has deep within us a religious sense (For those looking for a good read to start the New Year, Msgr. Luigi Giussani devotes an entire book to the concept of the religious sense and the demands it makes on believers).
The incredible truth of what it means to be born in the image and likeness of God is something that needs to be constantly re-taught in the school and in the home. To move beyond a life lived on the edges of superficiality and the trivial into a radical and deep communion with Jesus Christ and with others is the calling of all believers. We cannot and must not accept the status quo. Pope Francis challenges us to press on towards Bethlehem. Here we will meet our newborn king, and like the Magi who offered gifts, we offer Jesus Christ the gift of our very selves with all of the challenges that fill daily life.
A New Year’s resolution that each of us can make our own is to take the message of Pope Francis and apply it in our own lives with all the people we come into daily contact with―that each person will know by the depth of our love that we are attempting to move beyond the darkness and that we reject what the world considers great, wise and powerful. I am filled with hope that my young students, when offered this radical proposition, will choose to live in the light of Jesus Christ and that they too will follow the star that guided the Magi through the cold and darkness into a new life filled with God’s boundless grace and love.
Header Image CC Lawrence OP