Quite possibly the best moment I’ve ever had in a classroom happened just the other day out here at Sacred Heart. I had just come over to hang out with the 6th grade for maybe 20 or 30 minutes. They love it when the Pastoral Intern Seminarian comes over. Maybe just because it interrupts class for a little bit, but probably because the guys that have gone before me have done such a great job with them too. So there I was, wanting to chat with them a little bit about what we heard at Mass the Sunday before. Knowing that they were studying the Old Testament, many of them maybe for the first time, I had to ask them: So what did you think about when you heard that God sent a bunch of snakes to bite his people? (One of the oh so confusing and painful stories from the OT, found in Numbers 21 and leading up the glorious John 3:16 and ‘For God so loved the world…’ that we heard for the Exaltation of the Cross). But somehow this 20 or 30 minutes got out of hand I was joyed to just pour over the Bible with these kids for more than an hour and a half, question after question.
But right in the middle of it all, right in the middle of talking about the way our God comes running after us, and that even though we suffer in this world, and it may even seem that God is causing our pain, but that he has carved our names on his hand and he gives us our names and makes us who we are because of his desperate love for us (ok, take a breath!), we got to the story of Moses and the Burning Bush and the way that God does not receive his name from us but he gives it to us himself, and we can call on him but not control him, and we can know that we know his name and he knows us! Right in the middle of that, I’m practically leaning over the podium, trying to get across to them how scary and surprising an encounter with God like that can be, but how powerful and life changing and beautiful it can be, I said, “Sometimes these stories from the Old Testament are just so SCARY!” And at that very moment, with the Burning Bush and the fire of God’s love on our hearts…
…the fire alarm goes off!
The kids leaped from their seats, terror on their faces, excited yelps from their mouths. And I’m wondering, jeez, what did I say!? Well, if that’s not the most perfectly time fire drill I’ve ever been a part of, I don’t know how to make it any better.
After we got out some nervous laughter and found our way out to the school yard, well-drilled and ready to get back into the Bible, we came back to the class room and chatted a bit more about the Old Testament and God’s relentless love in the face of a sometimes scary and mean world. From there we looked at Adam and Eve and how we humans are the pinnacle of creation, loved into being and sustained by God’s desire that we know him and live with him forever, written on our hearts from the very beginning of creation.
And I just threw so much information at them, that I was afraid when I left that there’s no way they would remember anything because there was just way too much! But in my heart I am sure of something else: if they don’t remember ever little thing I shared with them, I would hope they remember that moment that God made so exciting. I would hope they remember just how excitable and geeked-out I can get about the wonders of the word of God and how enthusiastic I was about the way God has been chasing us down throughout history and through Scripture and beyond into our daily lives.
So I learned a lot about Scripture and evangelization myself that day: One of the most important ways we can move lives is not simply by sharing the information, but by sharing the Incarnation. We’re not just all about making sure these kids pass the tests, but making sure they know this stuff has and still is changing our lives. We cannot afford to read the Bible just to impress others with our trivia and book smarts. We will only be able to change lives and get other to read the Bible and fall in love with God’s word, and fall in love ourselves, if we share the excitement, if we make sure others know Jesus has turned our lives upside down, and we would have it no other way.