In the various Catholic elementary schools where I’ve previously worked as a priest the pickup procedure and dismissal time resembled some form of organized chaos. I must confess I tended to contribute more to the chaos, than the organization. I saw it as a great time to go and visit some of the students and parents.
So on one of the first days here at I.C. I headed over to the gym with gleeful anticipation of hoping to learning some more new names, getting to know the students and families. When I walked in I was shocked. The students were all so quiet. I couldn’t believe how well disciplined they were. I just sort of stood there dumbfounded. I so couldn’t believe it, I went over to the other side to see if those students were quiet too. I was so impressed or in such a state of shock I went over to the vice-principal to tell her of my unbelief.
I guess the reason I was so shocked is because teaching kids the kind of discipline exemplified in that gym is seemingly such a difficult task.
For the last several weeks we have been focusing about another difficult teaching of the Church as we’ve heard the Eucharist in the Bread of Life Discourse, found in John’s Gospel. Today as a follow up to this challenging teaching, Jesus asks the disciples, “Does this shock you?”
So does the Eucharist shock you? Does the fact that God turns bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ shock you? It should shock us in the sense that it leaves us in awe. Sometimes we become overwhelmed by the difficulty of the teaching so we just don’t worry about it. Other times we get so used to or accustomed to the Eucharist and coming to Mass everyday, that the sense of shock wears off. That’s in part why the Church has us listen to these six Sunday’s of Gospel readings every year. To reignite the shock at how amazing it is that God gives us this great gift, no matter how difficult the teaching may be.
The teachers just don’t teach the student to be quiet at dismissal time so they can go home earlier. Rather it is meant to be a lesson in discipline as well. It’s a lesson that you are meant to carry with you your entire life. By learning how to be quiet for a few minutes in the gym now, it will help you to grow tremendously throughout the rest of your life. In fact I’m sure many of the parents and grandparents here wished their child or children demonstrated that same kind of discipline a home. So to the kids, a quick thought, a challenge if you will, If your coach tells you to run, you run, if they tell you to jump, you jump. If you teacher tells you to be quiet in the gym, you’re quiet. I know you can do it because I’ve seen you do it. You do that all day long at school and then go to soccer practice. But as soon as you get home, if you’re parents ask to to pick up the dishes? Or take the trash out? Do the chores? “Ohh no Mom! No way!” You see the difficult lesson your learn of discipline and being quiet in the gym at the end of the day doesn’t end when you walk out the door.
In the same way the difficult teaching on the Eucharist doesn’t end when we walk out the doors of the Church. Rather the lesson we learn here, a lesson we literally receive into our very selves, is meant to transform us. It’s mean to change the way we think. Change the way we talk. Change the way we act. In the Gospel, Jesus points out that some found the teaching difficult and “returned to their former way of life.” When you leave Church every Sunday, yes you return home, but the truth is that we are changed by the Eucharist, so even if little by little, we don’t return to our former way of life. We are changed forever. It is then up to us to cooperate with this great teaching and gift we have received by the way we treat and act with others in our relationships, in our homes, our workplaces, our school, every where we go, everyone we encounter. We should be bringing Christ to them.
Seeing the students live out the difficult teaching of being quiet was shocking because it is was inspiring to see the students so well behaved. It should make us all #ICAngelProud. The shocking teaching of the Eucharist should not only transform us, but then also leave others shocked and inspired when they see us live out this difficult teaching not only here in the Church, but everywhere we go.