When you’ve been a teacher for as many years as I have, you know what I mean when I talk of the kid in the back of the class I hesitate to call on. He’s the boy who always has an exception to whatever rule you just taught. She’s the girl who questions why no matter how obvious the answer is.
I taught in a Catholic and at our first faculty meeting we were told to, “See the face of Jesus in each student – no matter how difficult that may be.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but over the years, I think I’d done a pretty good job of finding the good in each of my students. I’ve been a classroom teacher in almost every grade from kindergarten through fifth. I’ve taught elementary level science and writing, college prep classes, and high school algebra and geometry. I’ve taught high school equivalency to abuse survivors trying to get back on their feet 30 years after dropping out of school. I’ve taught in elite upper class private schools and inner city poverty stricken neighborhoods. I’ve taught on Indian reservations and in suburban districts. I’ve taught as a basketball and volleyball coach through the high school level.
Hopefully, more than anything else,
I’ve taught my children
about things far more important
than what they find in a textbook.
Part of my ability to teach is a love of learning pretty much anything, of pushing myself to understand when things are confusing, and challenging myself to never give up, but the biggest part of my ability to teach is my love for my students. In all those years of teaching, I cannot remember any student I seriously disliked – even the ones who purposely goaded me, the ones I hesitated to call on, the ones I wished would choose different actions and words.
But I hadn’t thought of that as seeing the face of Jesus. Today, I teach in a public school, and I would never tell anyone I see the face of Jesus in my students, in their parents, or in the adults I work with, but that is what we are called to do. There is something to love in each of them.
That doesn’t mean they don’t frustrate me sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to stamp my feet and grit my teeth and ask them what in the world they are thinking sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to give up, to throw my hands up in despair, or to turn my back on them and walk away sometimes.
I do, but I can’t, and, with their Creator’s help, I won’t.
In Sunday, November 6, 2016’s Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 20, the Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death, confront Jesus with an absurd question. The Sadducees acted, not as one child in the back of the classroom but as an gang. They’d gotten together before school to whisper and plot and come up with the perfect question to ridicule the Teacher, and they approached Him with false humility and an extreme scenario that went something like this:
If a woman marries and her husband dies childless, she marries his brother. (2000+ years ago, a woman could not survive alone. Marriage was not an imposition but a, sometimes imperfect, blessing for a woman.) Assuming this happened seven times, which of the men would be her husband in Heaven?
I don’t know if the human Jesus fully understood what awaited Him soon after this confrontation. I don’t know whether He understood the depth of betrayal He’d feel as Judas leaned in and gave Him that deadly kiss. I don’t know if He realized the fear He’d face alone in the Garden of Gethsemane would make Him sweat blood or that His blood loss would be nothing compared to what He’d endure after. I don’t know if the human Jesus was “in touch” with His Divinity enough to understand the full Glory of His own Resurrection.
I do know, He understood Heaven in a way we cannot. I know He exhibited a Wisdom and Patience that, as a teacher and a Mom, awes me. Jesus looked at the Saduccees and refused to get pulled in to their negativity. He refused to sink to their level. Perhaps He was able to look at them and find a bit of who His Father created them to be. Perhaps that helped Him keep His temper, think rationally, and answer in a way that changed our thinking thousands of years later.
Jesus told them, things are different in Heaven.
Today, we have similar opportunities. Our world is a mess. Our election has produced chaos and words of hate. Fear is mounting on both “sides.” We have forgotten we are brother and sister, each trying our best to live and give perfect love, each falling far below what we are capable of.
Our hostility began long before the election though. It began in our own homes as Marriage, and the Good God intended it to be, was torn apart. It began as husband and wife forgot their commitment to work together, to join intimately as one man and one woman and bring life into the world, and to Love one another through all things. Today, we face daily grinds that sometimes last for years and see only our own pain and misery. We ask how long we are expected to put up with unhappiness.
We use platitudes like God wants us to be happy, but we forget that God also wants us to work together, to find Good in His creation of each of us. We forget the Love we are called to give even when others seem, in our limited ability to see into their hearts, as unworthy. We forget that we are called to Love even when we ourselves feel incapable of Love, even when we ourselves feel our hackles rise, and our feelings crushed.
We forget that we are called to see the face of Jesus in one other.
In Sunday, November 6, 2016’s Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 20, we see Jesus not rise to the bait of the Sadducees but instead speaks with Wisdom and Patience, Truth and Love. Thousands of years later, we see the effect this has had on our understanding of life after death and our purpose.
Today, we make an impact, not by always speaking our political views or arguing about right and wrong in Marriage, but by sometimes holding our tongue, by listening to others and giving them a chance to speak even when we are hesitant to call on them. We make an impact by knowing some will not follow Jesus’ example, by knowing some people will choose to see only hate and promote only fear and ugliness. We make an impact by not rising to the bait, but by speaking as Jesus did, with Truth but first in Love.
This is not our home, but we have to live together. That means we have choices. We do not have to be pulled in to the negativity in our political debates or in our homes in our Marriages. We don’t have to repeat worst case scenarios. We can act in Love.
One day, we will all be judged by the one who now looks down on our arguments and sees into our hearts in the way we cannot. He knows our secret fears and the pains we share with no one. He knows the dreams we watch die and those we refuse to let go of.
He knows Heaven is not like this. He knows in Heaven there will be no husband and wife, no black and no white, no rich and no poor, no republican and no democrat.
In Heaven, there will only be God’s children, listening to one another, singing together in harmony, praying together in peace, and living together forever in Love.
Heaven isn’t like this, but we can choose to make this a little more like Heaven when we speak and act only in Love. Do not rise to the bait of present day Sadducees. There is life after this, and our greatest desire should be to Love one another.
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