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Posted by on Aug 23, 2007

Harden Not Your Heart

Many years ago I was teaching a 5th and 6th grade religious education class (otherwise known as CCD in Catholic circles). It was a lively group of children, many of whom were quite outspoken. We gathered weekly in a church hall after their regular school day. I always let them move around a bit, talk with each other and work on a cross stitch project while I was getting the space ready for our class. It helped them transition into the time we would spend together. It also helped them get to know each other, because they came from four or five different schools.

One particular day, a very lively, expressive girl, I’ll call her Marcie, decided that she didn’t like something I had said in greeting or in calling the group together. I don’t remember now what it was, but none of the other children thought anything of it.

When I called the children to gather in a circle for our opening prayer verse and song, Marcie joined the circle but faced away from the rest of us, towards the outside, saying she wasn’t going to be part of the group because she didn’t like what I had said.

It’s not often that a teacher gets such a perfect example handed her on a platter, so I shamelessly moved ahead and used it! We were, after all, studying the sacraments, including Reconciliation, that year. I asked the other children to look at Marcie and notice what she was doing. She had chosen not to be part of the group and had turned away from us. We had not turned from her. None of us had rejected her in any way. It was her choice to turn away and would be her choice to turn back to join the group. That is the way it is between us and God. God never turns away from us. We may choose to turn from God — and we are the ones who can choose to turn back at any time. God will never force us to act in either direction. It’s entirely up to each of us.

And what did Marcie do while I was speaking? Before I finished the first sentence, she had turned back to the group and was apologizing to all of them for giving me the chance to make a “religion” lesson out of what she had done. They were quick to make her feel at ease again.

I remembered Marcie and that day today as we prayed the Psalm at Mass. “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.” (Ps 95:7-8) God’s voice calls us. I hope we can respond as quickly as Marcie and the other children did to join the circle listening to His voice.

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