As part of my homily for this year's celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday evening, I reflected on the role of Jesus, the Teacher, as his disciples often identified him. In thinking about Jesus, the Teacher, I encouraged that evening's gathered assembly to reflect on the positive, life-changing effects that so many gifted teachers have had on our lives. I know in my own life, I can think of a long list of very gifted teachers who, along with our Lord, have helped to shape and form me and my priestly ministry.
In turn, one of the important aspects of my life as a priest and pastor is the opportunity to serve as a teacher. Sometimes this happens in less formal ways, like those times when I visit with the students in our parish school during lunchtime or as they are gathered in the school hallway between classes. At other times, this can happen in the conversations that are shared in my office, as I meet with individuals or couples who seek me out for my input or guidance on a variety of topics.
One of my great joys is when I have the opportunity to serve as a teacher in a more formal setting. For example, during the Lenten season just concluded, I led a large-group parish Bible study on the Gospel of Mark. For six weeks, I gathered with almost 90 members of our parish community to take a systematic journey through the Gospel that we hear proclaimed during this liturgical year. This was the first opportunity that I have had at my current parish to lead such a group. From the first night we gathered, I found myself rejoicing in the teacher/student irony. Although many of the participants perceived me as the “teacher,” I came away from each gathering deeply touched by the faith that had been shared so freely and so openly. Our group was comprised of both men and women. Some were young in years while others were young at heart. Some had participated in other Bible studies, while for others this was their first such opportunity. All are people who have deep faith in God. Their faith inspired me, and I am the better for the experience.
Those six weeks reminded me that I still have much to learn and that God continues to send me a host of very gifted teachers. As a community of faith, the same can be said of our neophytes — those recently welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil – as well as the many other “teachers” who come our way each day. In cooperation with Jesus, the Teacher, we are presented with myriad opportunities for growth in faith.
Our faith is meant to be a dynamic reality – it is meant to grow, stretch and change through the years. That process of growth does not mean that we leave behind what we learned when we were young. Instead, we build upon it – led to see our relationship with God in faith as something that is always changing, growing and developing. It is, as the Scriptures say, “ever ancient and ever new.” And so our journey in FAITH continues.