Feb. 9-15, 2006
By Chris Mominey/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Eastern Region Assistant Superintendent Shares His Message About Catholic Schools
Last week the Church called us to reflect on a Gospel passage that very much captures the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry as teacher. On the heels of the national celebration of Catholic School’s Week, it is even more appropriate that all of us, no matter our affiliation with Catholic schools, take time to listen once again to the words of the evangelist
Mark: “Jesus entered the synagogue…and those gathered there were astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”
We wonder: Why were they so astonished? What makes the teaching of Jesus so different from that of the scribes? In Catholic schools, we are proud to teach in the tradition of Jesus Christ. Each day our community of faculty and staff aspires to astonish young people as Jesus did on that day in the synagogue. With students from age 3 to age 18 entrusted in our care, we take seriously our vocation. It is, in large part, thanks to the efforts of our local parishes that we are able o do this every day. Without the people of our parishes, our buildings remain just buildings. But because of our parishes and their prayerful support, we are able to transform the brick and mortar into educational communities of love and service where the message of Jesus Christ is alive and well.
In some respects, our school is no different than any other. We have all of the basic necessities of schools such as blackboards and chalk. These tools convey the message and content of lessons to our students. They know if the teacher writes it on the board, it must be important. The conscientious teacher both speaks and writes the important concepts for students whose strengths may be either written or visual. What we teach our students is that Jesus, the Teacher, wrote with something much more permanent than chalk. Because chalk is never permanent — just dust that gets wiped away with he swipe of felt. Jesus wrote on the hearts of humanity with something much more permanent than chalk — He wrote with the blood of His fragile human body. The blood of the cross fell onto the pages of human history with permanence that few messages have ever had. On the cross, Jesus, the Teacher, gave a lesson that can never be erased. “A person can have no greater love than this; to lay down their life for a friend.” Jesus not only spoke it, he lived it! The mark of a master teacher: to live out that which you are teaching.
This is astonishing and this is the mission of the Catholic schools — to teach as Jesus did and to instill in young people the reality that to love another person is to see the face of God. We are proud of the excellent academic programs in the diocese. Again, we have the basic necessities to teach subjects, like math, in the traditional ways. But when we see rulers or yardsticks in our school, it reminds us about how we measure. Better yet, according to what our Gospel reading says, it reminds us how Jesus measured.
“They were astounded at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes loved to measure people. They thrived on judging people based on how strictly those people observed the law. The measure of eternal life for these religious leaders was the letter of the law. It was always about definite answers and precise measurements when they challenged Jesus on social issues. Elsewhere in the Gospels the scribes asked Jesus, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Yes or no. “Should this woman be stoned like the law says?” Black or white.
Jesus stands up in the face of these precise measurements and answers and says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…let the one among you who is without sin cast the stone.” There is only one measuring stick that Jesus uses — our self. With this, we are called to the reality that our salvation is not relative to another’s. On judgment day, Jesus will look at each of us and ask, “What have you done with the gifts that I gave you?” And this is what we try to instill in the young people of Catholic schools: find the God-giving life within you and share it with the world. Worry less about what others are doing and worry more about what choices God is asking you to make. We teach our students to look at the world and say not, “What’s wrong with this world?” But instead, “What can I do to help?” We know, in the tradition of Jesus Christ, Master Teacher, that there is no rigid measuring stick with the precise answers. At the end of our lives, we will be measured against our own self, our own calling, our own gifts and talents.
We might better understand why the people in the synagogue are so astonished at the Master Teacher, Jesus. Examples of Jesus astonishing His followers are endless. Thanks to the support of our parishes, we have the opportunity to study those examples daily in religion class. Thanks to you, we are able to teach self-discipline, instill Gospel values, promote Christian sportsmanship and build a caring community within our walls. Without this, our students could not be astonished.
As we continue our celebration of Catholic education, let us pray for one another — for in some sense, we are all students of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we are not called to sit in desks and take copious notes. Instead we are called to sit at the feet of the Master. Jesus is not simply a teacher in the traditional sense of the word. He is the Master who gathers us at His feet to hear the Good News of salvation. We gaze intently up at Him with the awe and wonder of a little child — hanging on His every word, longing to imitate His every action. May the Eucharist we receive strengthen us so that we may be willing to listen and learn from the Master. May we accept the challenges of the Teacher and complete the assignment that this Teacher gave to us on the day of our baptism.
Editor’s note: Mominey is principal of Rome Catholic School. This was a message he shared at Mass at the beginning of Catholic Schools Week