There is a well-known saying which goes as follows , ‘If you want to feed me today, give me rice. If you want to feed me for the rest of my life, teach me how to grow rice.’ The long-term goal is education, and it is the teacher who is at the heart of that process.
On 5 October we celebrated International Teachers’ Day. On that date in 1966, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) signed a recommendation concerning the “Status of Teachers”. This guidance hoped to target and investigate the status and situation of teachers across the world. To recognize this significant anniversary and commemorate the signing of the 1966 document, UNESCO created International Teachers’ Day in 1994.
The Ultimate Teacher
All of us will remember our teachers especially those who inspired us and motivated us in a way which turned their subject into one we loved. For Christians, Jesus is the ultimate teacher; his every word and action teach us something . In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that ‘Jesus came to do and to teach’. That’s an interesting insight because it says that he was prepared to do the thing himself first, before teaching others what to do. A simple example of that is when he washed the feet of his disciples, and then asked them to do as he did.
The teacher is one who brings another from the known to the unknown. In other words what is known is the starting point. Jesus was a brilliant teacher. He began with sheep, birds of the air, fish, nets, shepherds all things to which he could point when he spoke. His starting point was the very core of their life and their experience. He was sent with a simple message and he spoke to it in their language. By doing and following that by teaching , it became what is known in educational language as ‘an object lesson’. By beginning where they were at, and pointing to things they owned, and situations they knew, he could bring them on a journey of discovery and revelation.
The Sermon on the Mount contains a wealth of teaching on the mind-set and thinking of God. “He who hears me hears the Father who sent me. “
The Eight Beatitudes present a whole way of living, of thinking and of being; they are a simple and direct set of teachings. Listeners can identify with the ideas of gentleness, meekness, detachment, honesty and peace-making. In them Jesus summed up almost all of his teaching.
Christians find the following important lessons in this sermon. Meaningful spiritual treasure will be found by good people in Heaven. The secret to happiness is hungering, thirsting and being persecuted for what is right, living meekly, mourning and being merciful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that The Beatitudes “are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulation”.
They are difficult for us to understand because they are the antithesis of everything that the world, we live in pushes us to believe; that in order to be happy we have to be rich, own a huge house, be physically attractive, have an excessive wardrobe and on and on.
Prayer and the Spirit
It is significant that the apostles asked the Lord to teach them to pray. They had watched him multiplying the loaves, healing the lepers, raising the dead and yet it must have been how he prayed that impressed them the most. Jesus often spoke of the inner hunger and thirst that we all have, and he invites all to come to him. He taught them in the Temple, on the mountainside or from a boat pulled out from the shore. His classroom was the world, it was any place where people were gathered.
Jesus’ teaching began in a very definite way. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit; he was led by the Spirit into the Temple where he spoke those famous words. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives, and to give new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.’ This is the very heart of evangelization. The Father sends Jesus, and the Spirit does the anointing and opens up the hearts of both speaker and listener.
Through his very presence, as well as through every word he spoke, and everything he did Jesus was revealing the Father, and that is the most profound lesson ever given to the human heart. The gospels give us a very clear insight into the mind of God, and the teachings therein give us a very definite blueprint for living.