One of the many things I love about our church is our sanctuary, which is raised above the level of the church, with the altar on a platform above the level of the sanctuary. This arrangement makes it clear that I am going “up the mountain” to Calvary, the place of Christ’s sacrifice, as I approach the altar to offer that Saving Victim anew in an unbloody manner.
It also makes it clear to all of us that getting to God is an uphill journey – whether literally, or just metaphorically. Fortunately for all of us, there are steps, so we need not feel pressed to clear the entire distance in a heroic leap.
The founders and builders of our parish put those steps in our church to make it possible for us priests to reach up bread to the altar, there to pull down the nourishing flesh of the living God, and carry Him down to you. Steps make it possible for us to get up even unto the level of God. There are steps on the way to God, not only in our sanctuary, but also in life.
This is the time of year when people move up a step; we call it graduation. Wednesday, our kindergartners showed us all how much they had learned as they crossed the threshold to first grade. This weekend, our eighth graders took their diplomas and their honors and moved on to the thrill of being freshmen. And our biggest graduate in the Class of 2011, Fr. Nick, is finishing what he counts as the 30th grade.
It is so exciting for all of us to see and celebrate their accomplishments, and we are proud. But let us not forget what makes possible every graduation, every move up one step: thank God for teachers. Without them, most of us would not have gotten very far up these steps. At these graduation ceremonies, they stand back and proudly watch their former charges claim their diplomas and applause.
Like the people who put the steps in our sanctuary, the best teachers help us not only to knowledge, but also to the Truth. In the foyer of our school building is a statue of the child Jesus, the Divine Teacher, revealing, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” All who truly teach participate in His revelation.
We have great teachers in our school, and catechists in our Religious Education program, and a number of our parishioners teach elsewhere. I hope all our graduates, in the excitement of their big days, will find time to find and thank the teachers who have helped them up the steps. I am so glad for my own teachers, and all who teach our kids here.
One of our parishioners was acknowledged this spring in the Washington Post with an Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award: Tom Krawczewicz, who teaches at DeMatha -- and on our athletic fields – is the sole non-public school honoree this year. It’s nice when the Post recognizes the good we know so well!
The climbing begins long before caps and gowns are considered, and that requires teaching, too. You parents know when your toddlers first begin to manage the steps in your home, scooting down on his bottom, or lifting her knee to get up, they have begun the long, graduated journey to heaven. You are the first teacher, and Christ is in you when you teach His commandments.
Congratulations to our graduates, gratitude to our teachers, and God be with you all on the next step!