As my Sunday school students are due to receive the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation in May, I have been pondering what more I can do for them in these remaining weeks. I am particularly concerned about enhancing their understanding of the need to be strengthened and bound more firmly to Christ in response to the call to a life of true Christian discipleship. And, to my great delight, they have recently been blessed with a related learning opportunity.
It was an activity known as “the Modern Man’s Way of the Cross” organized by the “Association of Lay Catholics in Macau”. It took place on the morning of Good Friday and involved a long walk from Flora Garden up a flight of winding stairs to the Guia Hill Muncipal Park, where five spots had been appointed to serve as the respective five stations. When I got the invitation for my students to take turns to carry the wooden cross on the Way, I worried about their lack of interest as teenagers had been used to the comfort of an air-conditioned environment. Fortunately, I managed to recruit nine volunteers.
Though the weight of the cross was shared by six carriers at each shift, the walk up the long staircase was quite strenuous especially with the scorching sun beating down. They were the first to arrive at the assigned station while the rest of the participants followed them in long queues at a snail’s pace. On account of the large number of participants, it was quite a few minutes before everyone arrived and a signal was given for the spiritual session to start. During the entire time, two of the carriers remained standing on either side of the wooden cross to keep it standing erect. Seeing their frowning faces, I kept praying that they would persist till the very end.
To my delight, they showed no sign of quitting. Neither did they complain about the task. Conversely, as I came to know later, the experience of the Modern Man’s Way of the Cross had turned out to be a treasurable spiritual lesson for them, a lesson no less inspiring than any I had taught them in the classroom. It was, in fact, a lesson on true discipleship.
By helping to carry the wooden cross, my students offered their service to the other participants, thus contributing to the accomplishment of the activity. This is one aspect of discipleship as Jesus has taught His disciples to serve one another.
In addition, a true disciple is committed to taking up his own cross and follow Jesus to the very end. By helping to carry the wooden cross that morning, my students were guided to enter into Jesus’ sufferings. The experience of the exhausting walk and the boiling sun has enabled them to understand better about the agony of Jesus and His selfless love for us mankind.
Most importantly, they were doing evangelical work, too, as they learned, probably for the first time in their lives, to proclaim their faith in public, bearing witness to Jesus Christ’s redemptive work. There were passers-by, for example, who would probably have asked curious questions about the procession and prayer chanting on loudspeakers. It is said that a true disciple will reach out to others, tell them the Good News and bring them to Jesus. My students were, in fact, doing this by participating in this activity.
I can conclude that in addition to the Catechism and Bible knowledge they have acquired over the past three years, my students will also benefit from life experiences like the above mentioned one. I, therefore, have confidence that they are adequately prepared for a new phase of their spiritual life and that God will continue to bless them with the ability to pursue on the path that will lead them closer to Jesus as His true disciples.