Some Reflections on Forming Children in the Image of Jesus.
Forming Children in the Image of Jesus -Catholic
by Kathy Schoen
Archdiocesan Director of Religious Education
Archdiocese of St. Louis
Children come into this world made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore in a very real way are already in the image of Jesus. However, as the world and the things that are not of God chip away at them as they grow, their likeness to the image of Jesus can fade.
There’s a little story related to this point. It’s told that once upon a time in a kindergarten classroom, the children were told to draw a picture of anything they’d like. The teacher walked around the room commenting on the beautiful flowers, rainbows, animals, houses, and so on that the children were drawing. When she came to Sydney, she asked her what she was drawing and was told it was a picture of God. The teacher said, “Sydney, I don’t know how you can do that because no one knows what God looks like.” Sydney responded with a smile, “They will when I get finished!”
Our mission as catechists is to help bring the image of Jesus back into full sharpness and beauty in the children we catechize. So, how do we form children in the image of Jesus? The basic answer is to help them develop their spirituality – their relationship with Jesus. But how do we do this? How do we bring them into intimacy and communion with Jesus?
The first step is to realize that we can’t give what we don’t have. We need to be formed in the image of Jesus ourselves. We need to have a living, loving, intimate relationship with Christ in order to be a witness to it with our students. We teach by what we are: good, spiritual people in relation with the Lord. Our spiritual life/our intimacy with God will affect and be visible in our actions. We all know people like this. Their relationship with the Lord shines out of them! Remember Mother Teresa of Calcutta? Our personal spirituality helps us maintain that deep interior peace that is the fruit of the Spirit of the loving God. And our students will notice. “We disappear – Christ appears”. For us as catechists, our relationship with God must be the deepest and most personal experience of our life.
How do we develop our relationship with Jesus, and grow in intimacy and communion with him? Two wonderful sources that help us are the sacraments and prayer.
Sacraments are “Christ in action” for us here and now. They were instituted by Christ so he could do for us what he did for those who walked the earth with him two thousand years ago – and do even more! Think of it, he brings us into his family (Baptism), he forgives us (Penance), he nourishes us (not just with food, but with his very Body and Blood in the Eucharist), and so on. Celebrating the sacraments regularly and with conscious awareness of what Christ is doing for us cannot help but bring us closer to the person of Jesus.
Prayer is communicating with God. Speaking and listening to Him. Just as we must have continuous communication in any love relationship that we want to grow and be more intimate, so, too, in our relationship with God. We must spend time with Him – speaking, listening, just being with Him. This, too, will bring us into intimacy and communion with Jesus.
Once we embrace this for ourselves as catechists, what are some steps we can take to help our children be formed in the image of Jesus?
We start by seeing Christ in them. We accept and love them where they are, and see them as gifts. We listen to them, and are interested in them. We offer ourselves as companions on their faith journey. We share our own faith stories and experiences with them. We pray with them and for them, and introduce them to a variety of prayer styles. We help them discover their personal call to faith. We provide an inviting and affirming environment where they can feel they belong.
We provide an accepting yet challenging environment where they can safely question matters of faith and eventually take ownership of their faith. We help them think critically, and provide discussion opportunities so they can learn to articulate their thoughts and feelings. We empower them to be Christ to each other, support each other, and get involved in parish life. We keep ourselves in touch with their culture so we may understand where they are coming from, and so be better able to form them in the image of Jesus.
Our essential role is to be a witness of the joy that comes with loving Jesus. He will then be able to use us to form his children in his own image.
Forming Children in the Image of Jesus – Christian
Evelyn P. Tucker
Project Manager – Exploring the World, Discovering God
To be a religious teacher means to share God with the student. It seems that the old problem of information vs formation always seems to present itself. It doesn’t have to be a problem at all. The teacher must first be formed with a loving, trusting, and faith-filled relationship with Jesus Christ. It is HIS love, trust, and faith that we need to acquire for ourselves.
How will we nourish ourselves so that we can nourish our students? We need that open communcation line of prayer with our Savior as well as the truth found in the Bible. We need to be nourished in as many ways as possible. Some of us have the sacraments which nourish us. Other Christians have the Bible as their journey book. We need to pray and listen in order to hear Jesus speaking to us through the Bible, through the church services, through the fellowship of our church family. Jesus becomes real to us in these ways.
We need to establish regular prayer times each day so we can be with our best friend, Jesus. If we do that for ourselves, we will be more convincing bringing Jesus to our students. Our prayer is both talking to God and listening carefully for His message. In the quiet of private prayer as well as in the humanity of communal prayer we tune in to God’s broadcast.
By regular and deep study of the Bible, we journey with the first “God-followers” as they heard God’s message of love and protection. We walk with them as they failed and succeeded in following God; we walk with them as they cried out to God for rescue from immediate troubles as well as for the healing presence of the Messiah – the promised one. We walk with Jesus as He Lived, died, and rose from the dead to redeem each of us and all of us.
To form children in the image of Jesus requires that we have that image deeply etched in our very essence. What the child should see is the image of Jesus in every word and action that comes from us. We are to mirror Jesus to them. They should see in us what was said about the first Christians, “See, how they love one another.”
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