Take a moment and try to recall the one teacher who you considered the best you ever had. What was it about him or her that was so remarkable? I’ve asked a few people, and the answers seem to fall into two main categories. First, the teacher loved what they taught and second, they loved who they taught.
Albert Einstein once defined genius as the ability to take the complex and make it simple. Similarly, some teachers are able to take a subject, no matter how difficult, and explain it in such a way that anyone can understand it. Not only that, their love for their subject is contagious; students may find themselves loving a subject they never thought they would even like. One woman I spoke with told me that she actually began to look forward to doing her algebra homework.
Christ the Teacher had this same genius; we see it in the gospel today and throughout his ministry. Luke says that people were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority (Luke 4:32). He was such a master that he could distill the entire law and the prophets into the challenging simplicity of the single command, Do to others whatever you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12) and he so enlightened the disciples on the road to Emmaus that their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:32). Above all, even the greatest teacher can only bring subjects to life figuratively, but Christ brought his subjects to life literally; the physically dead, the spiritually dead, and as in today’s gospel, those who had their dignity taken from them even by demons.
This brings us to the second gift of a master teacher: Love for their students. When I asked one woman what subject her favorite teacher taught, she replied, “It didn’t matter. It wasn’t her teaching, it was the way she treated us. We wanted to do well for her just because she cared so much about us.”
Christ the Teacher was the perfect model of this love. Everything he did was for our benefit, to the very pouring out of his own life. This was his life lesson par excellence: That there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13); and he taught this not on a mountain, in a synagogue, or on a boat, but from the classroom of the Cross.
The truly selfless teacher is not as interested in what they have to give as they are in what their students take away with them. The lessons are only as good as what the students learn. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I will forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me, and I will learn.” Two of the great lessons that Christ the Master Teacher came to teach were the true meaning of love and the infinite dignity of the person and he involved humanity in three ways: First, by taking our flesh and living among us; second, by calling us to change our lives and follow him unreservedly; and third, by giving us the very life of God in perpetuity through the sacraments.
Contemplate the humility, the patience, and the genius of this teacher. In our very flesh God himself becomes incarnate; in the Scriptures he consistently speaks to us; in the form of simple bread and wine, blessed and broken, he veils himself and enters into us, all done out of pure, gratuitous love that seeks only to raise us from wherever we are to a place closer to him for all eternity.
The degree to which we show him that we have learned these lessons is the degree to which, as St. Paul said, we have the mind of Christ.