We continue our series on developing a space for grace by focusing on authentic availability and acceptance. These two related spiritual practices can help us as catechists to fulfill our mission to share the Catholic faith joyfully with those around us.
Leo Tolstoy’s story of “The Three Questions” contains important lessons for us in terms of how to be authentically available to God and to each other. The story outlines three questions with which a wise king struggles:
- What is the right time for every action?
- Who are the right people to be with?
- What is the most important thing to do?
In brief, the answers to these questions are as follows:
- What is the right time for every action? Now. Now is the best time for any action, because it is the only time that we have been gifted with.
- Who is the right person to be with? The person in front of me.
- What is the most important thing to do? The good that the person in front of me needs at that time.
This story illustrates an important point for us: it is in our witness to faith that people will encounter Christ. One catechetical leader puts it this way when she speaks to her catechists: “You are the heart of the matter. Jesus living in you will be the main way that people come to faith.”
Being authentically available to God and to each other is an opportunity for us to treat each person that we meet as Jesus. Each person that we come into contact with should feel valued and loved. Pope Francis reminds us that, “Jesus himself is the model of this method of evangelization which brings us to the very heart of his people. How good it is for us to contemplate the closeness which he shows to everyone!” (Evangelii Gaudium #269) Reading the Tolstoy story and asking the young people their responses to these three questions could yield a very fruitful discussion.
Part of availability is the challenge of acceptance—of ourselves and others. Acceptance of God’s will for our lives and acceptance of others are often related, as the Scriptures remind us. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Our ego often manifests itself in our desire to play god with our own life or the lives of others and to push away God. The letters EGO stand for “Edging God Out,” my friend Lisa reminds me, and it is often our own ego which stands in the way of our true fulfillment, contentment, and peace. Helping young people to accept God’s will is a challenge, but there are a few simple practices that we can use in the classroom to guide us.
Pray. Introduce young people to the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Serenity Prayer. These two prayers encourage acceptance of God’s will and acceptance of others.
Discuss. Reflect on the word ego as “Edging God Out.” Ask students: What are some of the ways that we edge God out in our lives? What happens when we try to edge God out? What are some practices that help us to accept God rather than edge him out?
Unpack. The Bible is filled with stories of those who accepted God’s will for their lives and those who did not. Consider unpacking some of the following Bible stories through the lens of acceptance: Jonah and the Whale, the Parable of the Rich Young Man, the Annunciation, or the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
What are some of your challenges when it comes to being available to God and to accepting his will? What lessons have you learned in accepting yourself and others? Do you have any insights in how to share these difficult subjects with your students?