Links for Learning
1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers
This months Links for Learners will support high school
- Religionthe meaning of Jesus' Incarnation; Scripturethe
letters of Paul; the Sacraments; Christian history
- Social Studiesthe history of humankind
- Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
Look for connections for use in programs such as:
Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young
adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA
Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion
around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities
or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions
or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from
the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners.
St. Paul's Letters
Sacrament as sign
Primacy and predestination (of Christ)
The Real New Year Celebration
What are we really celebrating on the New Year's Eve that opens
into the third millennium? Is it just a bash bigger than the usual
New Year's Eve party? Just an occasion when we can later brag about
where we were and what we did when the new millennium began?
This month's author urges us to view the millennial holiday from
a Christian perspective. For Christians, the start of the new millennium
is a special moment in our history. We believe that Jesus is the
center of our world, the core of our reality. While most of the
world celebrates a new year and a new beginning on December 31,
1999, we will have already begun on Christmas Eve. Our millennial
joy comes from remembering the birth of Jesus, the moment when God
inserted Himself into our humanity in an unforeseen and unimaginable
way. He became one of us. He touched us in an incredibly personal
Starting on Christmas Eve is part of a preparation plan Pope John
Paul II set in place several years ago when he established a Jubilee
Yearfrom Christmas Eve 1999 to the feast of the Epiphany in
2001for the Church to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Jesus'
Pope John Paul bases the Jubilee Year on a theology that puts Jesus
at the center of all human history. Jesus is the center of our lives.
Our author points us to the New Testament letters of St. Paul, where
we learn much of the theology of the Incarnation. For Paul, Jesus
is the center of all, the focal point, the image of God's invisible
love. He is the center of all history, the goal of creation. When
Paul matured in his faith and came to understand the inner reality
of Jesus, he wrote in Ephesians 1:4, "God chose us before the foundation
of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love." (For
a thorough bibliography on Paul's letters, see Spring
Hill College's Web site. And see John Paul's encyclical, Redemptor
Hominis, for a deeper theological explanation.)
Paul was an enemy of the early Church, an active persecutor of
the first Christians. When he experienced his conversion, Paul's
initial response was one of relief and gratitude, says our author.
Jesus saved him from disaster. Jesus showed him a new life. But
later, when Paul had an opportunity for prolonged reflection (his
imprisonment), he came to understand the tremendous depths of meaning
in Jesus' becoming man.
The goal of all creation, all history is Jesus. And each of us
was a loving thought in God's heart before the world even came to
be. God would have sent Jesus to us regardless of our condition.
What an incredible thought! Before the Father created the world,
He chose you and me. He knew each of us by name. Amy Grant says
it well in her song, "His Father's Eyes." In our eyes we each reflect
the Father, our loving God.
The Personal Reality of Jesus
Like St. Paul, many of us no doubt have had experiences of relief
and gratitude in being saved from some difficult situation. Only
later have we understood the real meaning of what happened to us.
We may have wrestled with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, maybe
became entangled with the wrong crowd, struggled with studies, were
involved in a bad marriage or faced financial problems until a counselor,
a friend, a teacher reached out to us and got us back on the track.
Perhaps during a time of confusion or inner turmoil, a priest's
sermon, a spouse's concern, a sister's conference talk, a peer's
retreat presentation or a friend's loyal support touched us. We
were probably thankful initially for the help and guidance. Months
or even years later, with the perspective of time or with a chance
to think quietly, we realized the great gift of love we received
from that person.
See the November 1999 issue of the business magazine Inc.
for an article entitled "Redemption." Four homeless, down-and-out
men struggled through Alcoholics Anonymous, then formed a group
called Hermitage Artists. They create American tramp-art, an art
form initiated by the hoboes who rode the railroads. The group's
name is inspired by Thomas Merton. In fact, they live by the spirit
of the Trappist rule that Merton lived under. They believe that
if they work at their art together, they'll become a brotherhood
because they depend on one another.
In the late 1950's Hugh O'Brian, the actor who once portrayed Wyatt
Earp on television, visited Africa, where he met the famous doctor
Albert Schweitzer. He was so deeply touched by the encounter that
he returned to the United States and founded the Hugh O'Brian Youth
Leadership program. Some 40 years later HOBY
still teaches young people to think for themselves. The program
identifies and develops leadership potential beginning with the
sophomore year in high school.
Share with one another an experience that reflects what Paul went
through. Yours may not have been a sudden conversion followed by
salvation and then profound understanding. Simply talk about how
Jesus has touched your life. In what ways has he made you never
again the same?
Celebrating the Millennium
The author offers us five practical ways to celebrate the
Jubilee Year. We're accustomed to celebrating one nightNew
Year's Eveand then struggling with new resolutions for
the next 12 months. The Jubilee Year gives us an opportunity
to truly celebrate all year long. Your group can talk about
making the author's suggestions even more personal to your
own lives. Discuss how you can bring a spirit of joy to your
actions throughout the year.
* Treat the earth with reverence. God our Father created this world
out of love for us. We too must touch this creation with love.
Saint Francis had a great
love of the earth, and is considered to be the patron saint
of animals and ecology. We can also learn much from the Native
Americans who treasure the earth and its resources. The Indian
Center Museum in Wichita, Kansas, is one example of the
efforts to preserve the heritage of the Native American tribes.
How can you embrace their love for the earth?
* Appreciate how our sacraments
celebrate the goodness of creation. The sacraments are a sign of
God's presence. The fruits of creationwater, oil, bread and wineshow us something of the fullness of God. Enjoy the sacraments
during the Jubilee Year. The Eucharist is not an obligation. It
is rather a communal celebration. Talk about how you can bring a
spirit of joy to the table as you worship together every week.
* Embrace your humanity. We are each made in the image of God's
Son and must treat one another with nothing less than dignity and
respect. The Sierra Group,
based in Pennsylvania, is a leader in assistive technology, helping
people with disabilities overcome obstacles in the business and
education sectors. How can we find ways to enhance another's dignity?
* Center your lives on Jesus. The Angelus
prayer is a tradition in the Church. Prayed at six a.m., noon, and
6 p.m., it serves as a reminder that Jesus is our focus. Are there
other prayers you favor that you can share with your group or friends
to help them pray?
* Look to Mary, Jesus' Mother. Mary, too, is a sign of God's plan.
Her complete giving of self in faith to God prepared her to be Jesus'
"first home in this world." Talk about making a home for Jesus in
your life and experience. This can be as simple as a passing word
of encouragement to someone, or as organized as the effort to relieve
the Third World of some of its crushing debt. You can further explore
core role in God's plan by reading Thomas Merton's article, "Understanding
Catholic Devotion to Mary."
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference.
Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading
articles contained within the site’s archives.
The New York Times
The Los Angeles
- Access site to a number of online news publications
The Associated Press
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation
– Washington, D.C.-based organization