Let The Healing Begin
Posted: Thu, 25 Feb 2021 13:26
In this week's Catholic Teacher Article, Mike reflects on Mark 1:40-45 and how it ties into modern Catholic education.
The Gospel reading for Sunday 14 February is truly beautiful. It has touched me at a profound level:
A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Mark 1: 40–45
The trust the man with leprosy showed in Jesus by asking for healing was faith indeed. The willingness of Christ to accept the invitation and heal demonstrates the universal witness to unconditional love that is revealed in the Christ mystery. Leprosy was the great excluder: those who suffered were outcasts and thrown to the margins. Jesus revealed to all that God's centre is everywhere and his circumference is nowhere; nothing is beyond the shape of God—not even leprosy. God is the Lord of inclusion.
I am struck by the parallels between this Gospel reading and the ministry of teaching. I have long believed that teaching is a form of healing. A quick Internet search of the term "healing" generates many definitions. Yet two phrases generally come up in all of them:
- To make whole
- To overcome
Education, especially in the Catholic tradition, should be a process of enabling students to experience the integrated nature of reality. We present a curriculum to show that all of life is integral, and so the curriculum must be broad and balanced for this reason. If we teach one discipline in isolation, the curriculum will never be truly accessible, so it cannot be inclusive. In Catholic education we pride ourselves on educating the whole person. This phrase, which can be found in many a mission statement, is an expression of the universal nature of Catholic education. We do not compartmentalise children into units by labelling them: "you are a grade 9…and you are a grade 3 so not as 'valuable' as the Grade 9!" In the Catholic tradition, we teach and minister to the whole child. This is why Catholic education is and will continue to be countercultural. Moreover, this is why many Catholic schools succeed: they do not fall into the trap of exclusivity. In an educational landscape, which sadly casts some children as "lepers", Catholic education is called to embrace all children. In doing so, it helps many young people overcome the barriers that life has placed in front of them. The act of teaching and the process of learning are sources of healing. Inclusion heals. The love and compassion shown by Jesus to the leper made him whole again. That was the true healing. To be seen and viewed through the lens of loving kindness gave him back his dignity.
We only have to look at our great superheroes, Don Bosco and De La Salle for example, as they included the forgotten, the abandoned, the neglected and the unloved. In short, the children who symbolically suffered "leprosy": the social lepers, if you will. They accepted the invitation of these outcast children to heal them. Their response mirrored the response of Christ in that Gospel reading. "I am willing," was their reply.
Education is the great healer, as it can heal the social ills that many young people face. It can heal the illnesses of exclusion, prejudice, discrimination, ignorance and poverty. Catholic educators are called to be ministers of this healing by being open to the invitation of young people who genuinely and earnestly ask for healing.
In my ministry as a teacher, I have never met a young person who did not want an education. I have met many who, sadly, have been so crushed by life and the tragic situations they have faced that they may not have embraced the importance of education. By looking into the eyes of a child in school, one can see intrinsically that they are crying out to be educated. It is easy to educate the openly willing! Yet, our vocation demands that we must seek out those on the margins of our schools and offer them the same healing efficacy that education brings to the keenest and most enthusiastic.
Our Gospel tells us that the man with leprosy was on his knees begging to be healed. Many young people are also on their knees begging for the same. When we have eyes to see this, we as teachers can be instruments of God's healing love.
There is a challenge here for those of us who lead in Catholic schools. There are many members of our communities who, like the children, are in need of healing. The problems a child is facing in life may manifest as challenging behaviour, but a member of staff may present as "difficult" for the same reasons. Our ministry of healing does not begin and end with children. Compassion should be universally applied to all.
God of love and healing, inspire in all who work in schools a genuine desire to act as instruments of your loving healing kindness.
Photo by William Farlow on Unsplash