Christ-centered education

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

CHRIST entered a synagogue and started to teach, and the people were astonished at his teaching since he taught with authority, unlike how their other teachers were teaching. (cfr. Mk 1,21-28) This gospel episode somehow reminds us about the qualities of a good teacher and also about the real goal of education.

I suppose among the first things that come to mind when we think of how a good and ideal teacher should be are that he is competent, does continuing study and research on his subject, prepares his classes well, delivers them fluently, keeps good relation with his students and colleagues, submits grades punctually, etc.

Those are indeed excellent qualities but they are not enough. In fact, they simply are peripherals and can be dangerous and counterproductive if they are not inspired by the proper spirit of love. Without the latter, the other qualities would be at the mercy of other spirits not proper to us.

These otherwise good qualities would simply be conditioned and dependent on purely human desires and intentions that, no matter how well-founded, will always bear the marks of human frailties and vulnerabilities, and later of self-interest if not sheer malice.

Having the proper spirit is fundamental and indispensable for a teacher to be a good one. He should not only be a master of the subject he teaches, but he also should manage to inspire love for God and for others through that subject.

That is the proper spirit to have. A good teacher manages to relate the things he teaches, no matter how technical and mundane, to God and to others. He should inspire the students to love God and others more through the things he teaches.

We should never forget the real and ultimate purpose of education which is none other than for us to be another Christ. After all, he is the very pattern of our humanity and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. If education is for us to achieve the fullness of our humanity, we should not look at anything, no matter how lofty and useful, other than at Christ.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, describes it this way: “His (Christ’s) gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (4,11-13)

Yes, education is not simply about acquiring some worldly knowledge and skills. It’s about achieving this “mature manhood” St. Paul was talking about, a mature manhood that is “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Obviously, knowledge and skills are important and are, in fact, indispensable. But they have to be oriented toward the ultimate goal of education which is the pursuit for the fullness of Christ in us.

We have to be wary of the strong, almost irresistible temptation to downgrade the purpose of education to simply achieving some worldly values like wealth, honor, popularity, efficiency, etc. These worldly goals, if not related to the ultimate goal, can very well be sweet poisons that can corrupt the process of education.

Thus, the ultimate goal of education is when we learn to deal in an abiding way with the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of God, who will remind us of everything Christ taught us and will lead us to the complete truth and would tell us of things to come.