Practicing the virtues of mercy this lenten season

The liturgical season of Lent is upon us again. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a 40-day period during which we remember Christ’s resilience and faithfulness in the desert. We are called to renew our faith and once again strengthen our relationship with God through prayer. This time presents opportunity for us to examine the parts of our lives that need to be changed or improved.

In particular, Lent marks a time when we are called to remember the poor and those with fewer opportunities. This calling is closely linked to the education mission. In many ways, the journey of an educator parallels Christ’s challenging ministry to God’s people. Teaching is a demanding vocation, requiring patience on the part of educators. And just like how Jesus Himself was rejected by many, teachers too, can face disappointment when students fail to heed their advice.

It can be especially difficult when defiant and rebellious students don’t appreciate the importance of learning, and the difference a good education can make to their lives. Yet this mission to impart knowledge and values to young people remains a critically important task.

Those who need help the most
During Lent, we are presented with an opportunity to live in spirit and solidarity with the poor in the world. In his homily during the Commissioning Mass for three new principals in January, Archbishop William Goh pointed out different kinds of poor whom Christ mentioned in Luke’s Gospel. Apart from the financially poor, there are the emotionally and spiritually poor.

Some students are emotionally and spiritually poor because they come from broken families, and do not experience the warmth and joy of familial love. This may affect their discipline, schoolwork, and relationships with their peers.

We often shun those whom we do not understand and label them as problematic. Difficult students test the patience and resolve of Catholic educators, because of their negative behaviour and attitudes. But these are also the same students who need our attention the most, because they are too clouded by their problems to experience God’s love and graces.

An opportunity in Lent
The season of Lent gives us a platform to remember the sufferings that our less fortunate brothers and sisters go through. During this period, fasting and abstinence form the symbols of our repentance, and the care for our fellow children of God form the core of our Christian calling. We must not forget those among us who most need a listening ear or a guiding hand.

The call for Catholic educators is to listen to the students who need support, recognising their pains and struggles. This will not only bring a ray of hope to broken and wounded young people, but will also help teachers themselves see the purpose behind their mission as shepherds of God’s beloved children.