Monday, September 6, 2010

St. Mary the teacher

In Christian theology Jesus comes through as the teacher who answers and guides those who question him. This irrepressible quench for teaching starts at a young age and many are amazed by what the carpenter’s son accomplishes. Even as Mary and Joseph shared this sense of amazement one has to also acknowledge the role they would have played in the development of Jesus.

One can question this quest to identify Jesus’ teachers as a futile attempt that will lead nowhere. How can anyone teach God? Jesus being the child of God would then have known everything and what would then be the reason for anyone teaching him, leave alone Mary and Joseph? But isn’t keeping quiet when needed and non-teaching also a form of teaching? In this regard we can look at St. Mary the teacher.

The wedding at Cana initiates one of the few lines credited to Mary which the biblical writers finally manage to part with. Mary says in John 2:3, “They have no more wine.” Even though this looks like a lecture about the state of wine in that house, it is a question directed at Jesus by Mary in teacher’s robes. The answer is something like Jesus is not ready to answer the question. Unlike many teachers in our time who would then proceed to beat out the answer of the student, Mary tells the others, “do whatever he tells you.” The un-complaining teacher gives space to her student to make sense of the question she has put forward.

What happens later is history and well documented in our minds. To look at this passage for teachers’ day brings about a total re-working of the concept of who a teacher is. In the luminosity of the relationship between Mary and Jesus we are still left in the dark because that is indeed what a student-teacher relationship is. It is abstract to the one looking but clear to those involved. The best teachers I have had are the ones who made me think, who left a space for me to be me, who left the jars empty for me to fill up!

For teachers’ day the concept of a teacher has to be re-defined before we wish happy teachers’ day. Who is my teacher? My teacher is the one who allows me to learn and do. For this reason I cannot define who my teachers are. They are one and many. My mother, father, priest, aunt, school facilitator, theology guide, college friend, wayside vendor, co-journeying passenger! Happy teachers’ day to all of you. You have left the jar empty so that I could figure out what to do with it.

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