Of all the titles that His contemporaries gave Jesus, I always have had a particular affinity for the term “Rabbi.” It embodies the better portion that kept Mary at Jesus’ feet; it is the reason that people by the thousands followed Him, even into the wilderness, just to hang on to His every word.  It encompasses all those parables which we still ponder today and, I think, it gives us a glimpse into one way that the Good God goes about getting all His lost sheep back into the fold.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to mention here that I, myself, was a teacher for many years, which may also account for some of the kinship I feel for the word. But even more, because of that, I can see so many parallels between the mechanics of the classroom and life as it is lived, that I can’t help but believe that the divine rabbi is still “conducting class” for anyone who “has ears to listen.”

I have gotten into the habit of approaching each day as a new lesson plan from the Almighty. Like any good teacher, God has salient points He wants me to grasp, and He has a variety of ways of doing that. Often He wants to introduce me to new material; those are the days I find myself encountering someone completely unanticipated or experiencing an old friend in a different way. It can also be a set of circumstances that I wasn’t expecting that jars me out of my comfort zone. Either way, I find myself having to consider things from a different perspective, asking different questions and challenging myself to stretch a bit from where I am to where He is calling me to be.

Occasionally, there is a review, especially when I seem to have “misplaced” a lesson that I once knew well but have perhaps let lapse. Pop quizzes are just that — unexpected opportunities to put all that I have learned to good use and to realize why I was taught such important lessons in the first place.

Then, of course, there is the homework. Sometimes that means becoming involved in an activity, project or relationship that expands on new things or reinforces old ones. Often it means reading or listening to something I would otherwise not have followed up on. Some assignments are quite specific, like when I feel a nudge to do something for someone or something that turns out literally to have been the answer to someone’s prayer. These can be individual assignments or group projects — God organizes those based on need.

Now a word about the final exam. Like in that other classroom, preparation along the way is a much better choice than cramming at the last minute; regular prayer, the sacraments — especially Mass and the Eucharist — pondering Scripture and living out the Two Great Commandments all constitute powerful exam prep.  My advice? Don’t skip any of it. After all, this is one test we really want to ace.

—Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.