by Jodi-beth McCain
Jodi-Beth McCain joined the CCTheo staff in 2023 as our Grant Director. She is trained in all three levels of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Jodi-beth is also the Director of Religious Education, and an Elementary Catechist at Christian Family Montessori School in Washington DC.
During these days of Lent, I look forward to reading the account of Jesus before Caiphas in Matthew 26. I wonder aloud, “Does anyone deserve to die?” Year after year, the children reply, with conviction, “No!” No one deserves to die.
Preparations for the celebrations of Reconciliation and Communion are also woven into our Lenten days. As we read the words of Jesus about the True Vine, I wonder to myself about the branches that are “thrown on the fire and they are burnt.” For children who know that no one deserves to die, how do they hear these words? Does any branch deserve to be thrown away?
I recently read the True Vine with a group of elementary children. The next day, children voiced their concerns. One called Jesus’ words a “warning”. Another shared, “if we don’t remain on the vine, God will burn us alive”. And another asked, “If my family doesn’t believe in God, will we be thrown in the fire?” This child then helped me to write a new scripture booklet; we omitted the words about the fire. The next week, all agreed that this revised version of John 15 sounded more like the Good Shepherd; the tension in the group lifted.
The same child who helped me revise the scripture booklet shared a page from her journal with me. Along with a drawing of grapes she had written, “no one gets thrown in the fire in the Kingdom of Love”. These children know that all are welcomed branches on the True Vine, and this knowing is deeply important to them.
But what about the blockages that disconnect us/our branches from God and from each other? What about violence and injustice? What about all that we wish may be burned?
This Lent the Level 3 children have been praying imprecatory psalms (psalms that call for God’s judgment) and sharing with God all that angers them. They have called out to God about:
when nobody does anything about dictatorships,
the lack of help for homeless people,
attempts to destroy the Ethiopian church,
As we pray together, we give our anger to God. We ask: God, please help us.
This Lent, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus rising from death to life, may we proclaim along with the children that no one deserves to die. May we proclaim God’s Kingdom of Love where all are welcome and belong. May we entrust our anger to God, proclaiming that our God is great and just and with our help, will right all wrongs.