Imitating Jesus, the master catechist and evangelist

Michelle Tan

On Saturday and Sunday Aug 22 and 23, we celebrated Catechetical Awareness Weekend and Lay Apostolate Sunday, and on Friday, Sept 4, we celebrated Teachers’ Day. Whether we are catechists (which comes from the Greek katēkhein meaning to “instruct orally”) or lay apostles (from the Greek apostellein which means to “send forth”) or parents, grandparents or godparents, we are sent by God to evangelise and teach others the faith, and so bring them back to the Father through Christ the Son. Our Lord taught us that, if we want to be teachers after His own mind and heart, we need to:

  • T – spend TIME with God: “Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.” (St Francis de Sales) Jesus always went off to a lonely place to pray. We too need to find the time to draw strength from receiving Jesus Himself in Holy Communion, in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, contemplating God’s glory in creation or just by simply being instead of doing.
  • E – continue our self-EDUCATION: “Education is not the filling of a vessel but the igniting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats) It only takes a spark to get the fire going, but we can’t give what we don’t have. We send our children for tuition and enrichment classes, but we need to upsize our souls too. The many online resources made available during this Covid-19 period contain treasures of the faith waiting to be discovered.
  • A – teach with AUTHORITY. The root of the word “authority” is the Latin “augere” which means not to impose one’s will or command, but to develop an inherent potential. No wonder “people were astounded at Christ’s teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22) The scribes may have filled vessels with knowledge of the Law, but Jesus ignited fires with the power of His Love.
  • C – be faithful to our CALLING: For Christ, his ministry was a CALLING, and not a career. Mercy and love are at the heart of every vocation. Yet, discovering our own personal vocation and then living it out is not easy – it is a CROSS we have to carry as Christ’s disciple. It is no wonder that the letter C is at the heart of the word TEACHER.
  • H – learn HUMILITY by having the courage to admit that we make mistakes and need to make amends, or that we don’t know everything and need help. We need to crucify our pride and egos to resurrect our human dignity for this is what Christ asks of us. “You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15)
  • E – rediscover our ENTHUSIASM. “Enthusiasm” comes from the Greek “entheos” (having a god within). We are already temples of the Holy Spirit, but the Word of God reproaches us: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4,5) We must allow Him to re-infuse us with the passion and the great hopes we once burned with fresh from our conversion experiences.
  • R – remain RESOLUTE. We have been assured: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

So there we have it – what we need to be a TEACHER in the image and likeness of Christ. But there is still one important thing we need:

  • S – to work in SOLIDARITY as co-workers in His vineyard where the labourers are so few, but the harvest is so plentiful.

As we prepare to celebrate Catholic Education Sunday on September 13, may we enter into a deeper communion – common union –  with each other, as we strive together to be the best catechists, lay apostles, evangelists and TEACHERS of the faith that we can be for the glory of God.

The Icon of Christ the Teacher

Christ the Teacher, with eyes large and open, looks straight at us and right into our hearts. His forehead, depicting the seat of wisdom, is high and convex. His mouth is closed in the silence of contemplation. His hair is curled and long, recalling the endless flow of time; he is the same yesterday, today and forever.

His left hand holds the Word of God open for all to read, and his right hand is raised in blessing. Under his cloak of dark green, signifying the mystery of his divinity, his tunic is a bright crimson red, to signify His blood poured out for all humanity.

Christ’s halo, the iconographic symbol for sanctity, is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters omicron, omega, nu, spelling “HO ON.” In English, this becomes “Who Am,” the name of God given to Moses in Exodus 3:14. On the background is written “IC XC” the shortened form of Iesous Khristos, Jesus Christ in Greek.