Back to School: Jesus, a guide for students’ advancement in wisdom, age and favor

September 6, 2018

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Jesus The Student

Late August and early September signal the beginning of a new school year. Whether a student attends a Catholic school, private school, or public school, education is a spiritual process. Jesus was a student, and his example serves as a guide for all students. As a twelve-year old, “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52), which is to say that he matured intellectually, physically, and spiritually, and students are to take their cues from him.

Wisdom presumes the mastery of academic subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic; or history, art, and music; or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A good student has a strong desire to learn, willingly attends school, pays attention in class, stays on task, asks and responds to questions, completes assignments and projects, and does one’s own work. Jesus is a shining example. He was so eager to learn that he remained behind in Jerusalem, went to the Temple, the center of learning, and sat in the midst of the teachers, listened to them, and asked them questions (see Lk 2:46).

Wisdom is more than the mastery of facts and figures or the ability to conduct an experiment and analyze the results. Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:2). Wisdom combines academic learning, experience, insight, and common sense. It distinguishes between right and wrong, seeks and upholds the truth, applies information constructively, and balances personal good with the common good. Wisdom is the ability to exercise sound judgment.

Jesus also advanced in age. Jesus grew in size physically. He matured from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood. He put on weight, grew taller, and got stronger. Jesus was a good steward of his body, and students are to do likewise. Young people have a spiritual duty to eat a well-balanced diet, get enough rest at night, and exercise regularly. It encompasses healthy practices like brushing your teeth, taking a bath or a shower, and wearing appropriate clothing. At school, physical development includes playground activities, physical education classes, and health classes, as well as extracurricular opportunities like volleyball, dance, soccer, or swimming. Physical safety is also a major concern: the avoidance of dangerous or risky behaviors, caution when crossing the street, and saying no to drugs.

Most importantly, Jesus advanced in favor. He became pleasing to God, and one of the best ways for a young person to please God is to obey one’s parents. When it came to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was “obedient to them” (Lk 2:51). He had a respectful attitude, a cooperative spirit, and a bright disposition; and he listened to his parents, followed their directions, and complied with their house rules. When a child goes to school, the respect accorded to one’s parents is extended to one’s teachers.

To advance in favor is to grow closer to God and to increase in personal holiness. This improvement is fostered by daily prayer, Mass every Sunday, the regular reception of the sacraments, religious education classes, church youth group, and good works. It also includes virtuous behaviors such as telling the truth, getting along with brothers and sisters, performing assigned household tasks, respecting classmates, good behavior on the bus, the use of appropriate language, and playing in a sportsmanlike manner.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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