Internalizing the Gospel Story

I was invited to a brunch at a friend’s house Tuesday – all the attendants were on our parish’s Sanctity of Life Committee – and I mentioned my series on Lawn Chair Catechism, and how the book we read for the project has changed how I see myself as a Christian and is going to be an influence on me as I begin teaching middle schoolers on Sunday mornings at our parish.

From there, we started talking about how mere information about the Church and the Faith isn’t enough, and how what we have to do is work towards reaching the children with the Gospel story and helping them internalize it. They have to know it’s real. I recalled a post from Jennifer Fulwiler, way back from her first Christmas as a believer:

Anyway, a couple Fridays ago, I was getting the house ready for a Christmas party and turned on some Christmas music, the same tunes I enjoy hearing every year. As the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s stunning rendition of The First Noel floated through the kitchen, I was almost stopped in my tracks. I realized, for the first time, what Christmas really is. The glorious melody that recounts the tale of shepherds gazing at a star on a cold winter’s night, of travelers from a distant land offering gifts upon bent knee to a newborn child, isn’t just beautiful, but an expression of the most beautiful thing that ever happened.

She used to be so tiny!

She used to be so tiny!

And I related how I, too, had a shock one year as Christmas was approaching. It was 1998, and my older daughter was only a couple of months old. I was preparing a lesson for my first grade CCD class, and it was all about Jesus coming as a baby. I looked at my daughter, and it hit me. God – the Creator of the universe and all that is in it – became a baby. I’d known this all my life, had taught it as a catechist for years before ever having any children of my own, but never really contemplated what it meant.

At that moment, my baby girl was completely dependent on me. She couldn’t hold a bottle, couldn’t sit up, couldn’t talk to tell me what she needed. She was absolutely and completely helpless.

And God did that to Himself. On purpose!

It might have been the first time I truly internalized this idea. It changed forever how I thought of Christmas. I even brought my baby to class that week to really drive home the point to my first graders. (I wonder how many of them remember that afternoon from almost 15 years ago.)

As a catechist this year, I want to try to help each of the children we’re teaching to have that “aha!” moment – a moment of internalization of some Truth of the Faith – to help them cross a threshold and get closer to being a disciple of Christ. With God’s help, it’s possible.

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Have you internalized the Gospel? Tell me your “aha!” moment in the comments!

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