Most of us have a favorite teacher at every level of school. In my elementary years, my favorite was then my Grade 1 teacher, who while she was a disciplinarian way back, was also well-loved by everyone and that really made a lasting mark in me. Her style always commanded respect from all her students. If you failed to live up to expectations, you would always hear it first from her, in private of course. For helping mold what I am today, I owe a lot to her advice, her kindness, and her loving discipline.
In the Old Testament, Moses was a figure that stood out among the many prophets and elders of Israel. His greatness wasn’t in the marvelous things he did or accomplished while leading the chosen people out of Egypt into the Promised Land, but more because among them, he was the one whom the Lord conversed a lot, just like talking to a friend. Yes, while Moses is a great mediator between God and His people, there were also limitations because Moses wasn’t allowed to see God face to face (Ex. 33: 23). The “new” Moses though is different: Jesus spoke with authority, which is based on the fact that He lives in the presence of God, not as a friend, but as His only Son! He lives in intimacy with God the Father!
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read about the man speaking about Jesus. Possessed by an unclean spirit, he identified Jesus as the Holy One of God! Jesus speaking with authority is also matched with great deeds and miracles. It isn’t born out of ordinary learning, but out of being in the presence of God.
As teachers in our own ways, whether with our children, peers, colleagues, subordinates, or even as leaders in our communities, it is important that we have credibility to impart knowledge. This credibility and the genuine sincerity in sharing ourselves aren’t easy to acquire. These are borne out of years of lifelong learning and experience. Aside from that, it also involves practically “living” what we teach. The best teacher is one who bequeaths knowledge without trying much what to say, as he is the message itself.
Becoming a great teacher involves sharing with your students what you know. It also involves demonstrating in order for them to assimilate the learning easily. Most importantly, becoming a great teacher is a gift that only God can give. It makes one speak with conviction, such that his audience is moved to act accordingly.
One good example of a teacher-par-excellence is St. Anthony of Padua. When he preached to the people in Rimini, where there were a great number of heretics, and wishing to lead them by the light of faith into the way of truth, preached to them for several days. He reasoned out with them on the faith of Christ and on the Holy Scriptures. They resisted his words and refused to listen to him. At last St Anthony, inspired by God, went down to the seashore, where the river runs into the sea, and having placed himself on a bank between the river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes as if the Lord had sent him to preach to them. No sooner had he spoke then suddenly so great a multitude of fishes, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood, that never before had so many been seen in the sea or the river. All kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony’s face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully.
Meanwhile, the people whom he had earlier preached, upon hearing of the miracle taking place, went to the seashore and upon witnessing so wonderful and manifest a miracle, were touched, and threw themselves at the feet of St Anthony to hear his words. The saint then began to expound to them the Catholic faith. He preached so eloquently, that all those heretics were converted, and returned to the true faith of Christ. The rest of the faithful also were filled with joy, and with their faith strengthened.
The story of St. Anthony is an example of God using men to deliver His words. And as teachers, it must be a great privilege being used by God for His work here on earth.
While it may seem far out to think of being like St. Anthony, champions spend time for quiet reflection in awe of God. Spending time in prayer allows us to discover God’s directions for our lives. These moments are “life defining insights”, as Fr. Armand calls it. These insights are tools by which we can share ourselves, and God’s love to others. It sounds difficult, but as long as we open ourselves to His calling, God will reveal Himself to us in ways we can never imagine. That will make us teach His word, with confidence, and with authority that only the Lord can give.