Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Teaching Without End

Most of us have gone to school in one way or another. Some have reached college. Others have finished high school while still others have only reached the elementary grades. Whatever level of education we have reached we were under teachers. There was always the teacher who was the boss in class, who told us what to do and how to do it, and who graded us according to our performance.

This figure of the teacher is too familiar with us. The teacher has something to teach us, whether it is just reading and writing or a book to understand or a mathematical problem to solve. And he or she has the means to perform his or her job. He or she has a lesson plan, a chalk and an eraser, a pen. Nowadays teachers may have computers, projectors and screens to make a power point presentation of their subject matter.

In the Gospel reading today we meet a very different kind of a teacher, a kind that is very different from our image of the teacher today. For one thing, he did not have a written lesson plan. He did not have a chalk and eraser or even a pen. He just had himself. We reflect on this teacher today.

Ray Pritchard in his article entitled “Why Was Jesus called “Teacher”” says that Jesus was addressed 60 times in the Gospels as teacher. There are 30 more times where he is described as a teacher or as teaching. It was indeed the people’s favorite address to, and description of Jesus. Jesus accepted that he was a teacher but this was not his favorite title. His favorite was “son of man”.   

It is very fortunate and appropriate that in our translation of this passage from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which is the New American Bible Revised Edition, the reading is “He began to teach them”. This is because in this narration of Matthew Jesus does begin his teaching ministry. The word-for-word translation in the original Greek of this passage is “And having opened his mouth he taught them”. But here in our Gospel reading we read “He began to teach them” for here indeed Jesus began his teaching ministry.

So many things can be said about Jesus as teacher. He has been called the Master
Teacher, the Greatest Teacher of all time, the Best Teacher, and other such expressions. Today we reflect on the uniqueness of Jesus as a teacher, what set him apart from all other teachers in the world, whether classroom teacher or online teachers or just plain instructor in a certain field of human activity, like singing and dancing.

First of all Jesus did not have a textbook. Almost all teachers have a textbook or a manual or a module from where the subject matter is to be taught. What Jesus taught was not just some branch of knowledge like English or Geometry. The principal subject matter of Jesus’ teaching is himself. He clearly said this. He said, also in Matthew’s Gospel, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (11:29 AV). He also said that he was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). If we want to know what is truth in any subject Jesus is this truth. He taught himself, not some subject matter outside himself. The Apostle Paul said that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him (Colossians 2:3). Whatever we want to learn, as long as it is truth, it is in Christ. Therefore studying Christ will lead us into all these treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
That is why our Catechism of the Catholic Church says “In catechesis "Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God,. . . is taught – everything else is taught with reference to him - and it is Christ alone who teaches . . .” (427).
Secondly in the case of Jesus there is a personal relationship between teacher and learner which is necessary in order to learn from him. In other teaching situations there is no need of this relationship. We do not have to know the personal circumstances, for example, of our teacher in biology in order to know biology. In the case of Jesus it is necessary for proper learning. That is why in his case the student is called a disciple, a learner, a follower. We have met teachers who taught us in class but after the class we do not have communication with this teacher in order to learn more of his subject matter. At best we have a consultation, but not an ongoing personal relationship. In the case of the teacher Jesus we can only understand him if we have this personal relationship. This is the reason why so many of us seem to have difficulty understanding the Bible or we do not have an ongoing, growing desire to read and understand the Bible. It is because we do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. We do not talk to him very often or try to understand his thoughts and feelings.

Thirdly, this relationship or teaching relationship is forever. In our classes usually the relationship with our teacher ends when we graduate. There are cases, of course, where teacher and student develop a romantic relationship which ends in a marital relationship. But sooner or later even this relationship ends with death. With Jesus our relationship goes on forever unto eternity. Jesus has always something to teach us and we have always something to learn from him. His teaching is without end. Our learning is also without end. There is always something personal about Jesus which we learn even into eternity.

Jesus' physical body is no longer with us but he continues to teach us through his Spirit and his Church. Before he left us he promised that he would send to us his Spirit who would teach us all things, not just religious things but all things. And we have church leaders and teachers who continue his teaching ministry.

Jesus is indeed a unique teacher. Let us bow down in prayer to this greatest and unique teacher in our lives.

Lord Jesus, you are our teacher. You teach us all things through your Spirit. Teach us to have a personal, loving relationship with you so that we can understand what you teach in the Scriptures and in the Church. Amen.  

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

Labels: Homily, homilies, sermon, sermons, Christ-filled homily, Sunday sermons, Jesus is teacher, the master teacher, the best teacher

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