I was once told that small acts of love–routine or not–were called “lower-case-s” sacraments, for they brought God’s grace into our lives. My life each day as a math and science teacher at Cantwell Sacred-Heart of Mary High School in East Los Angeles is rich with these small signs of God’s grace. Yet, even as I write this reflection, I find myself hesitant to share the anecdote from the first part of this reflection. After all, we are called during these 40 days of Lent to cleanse body and mind in order to receive God’s ultimate sacrifice. We are called to prepare ourselves for the Living Sacrament–capital S. With an act of such infinite self-giving love on the horizon–one that is the very center of our faith–why would I share such a seemingly inconsequential story?
Perhaps I am out of line in finding such joy in the everyday. Concerned that my focus might be misplaced during this season of personal austerity, I sought the advice of a fellow ACEr – Andrew Rhodes. He pointed me to a passage from the Gospel of Mark–when Jesus explains to the Pharisees why his own disciples were not fasting in the presence of sinners and tax collectors.
“How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.” (Mark 2:18-20)
For these 40 days, the bridegroom still walks with us. He is among us. While we prepare for the Living Sacrament and orient ourselves to contemplate Christ’s Passion, we should not do so at the expense of the living sacraments that walk among us. Just as Christ walked here on earth, so too do those who shower us with his love in the present.
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On each occasion that I ask my sophomores a personal question–“Does anyone have any plans for the weekend or would somebody like to share their new year’s resolution with the class?”–they have a funny way of turning it around on their teacher. Jalili, what about you? It is almost like they want to peer into my life, just to make sure I am a human and not some creature who sleeps on a mattress of textbooks. Anticipating their curiosity the next time we talk about our Lenten promises in class, I will share mine with you. I did not come to it with ease, and I am still not certain of its cogency. Nonetheless, here it is. In preparation for the resurrection of Christ, I pray that I can recognize all of the ways his sacrifice goes unnoticed in the small things, the mundane, and the routine.
My community at Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary will provide me with me the witness and the strength needed to try and live this promise each day. In honor of them, I conclude this reflection as we do all things in our school community:
St. Philip of Jesus, pray for us!
Sacred Heart of Mary, intercede for us!
Age cum anima Christi, act with the character of Christ!
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