Remembering the Identity of a Teacher
Msgr Ambrose Vaz reaffirms Catholic educators of their important role and identity at this year’s Teacher’s Day Mass.
Nearly 200 Catholic educators, staff, family, and friends once again gathered to commemorate Teachers’ Day, at a specially organised Mass held on 12 September. Organised annually by the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS), the Eucharistic celebration took place at Catholic High School, and was presided by Msgr Ambrose Vaz and concelebrants, Fr Edward Seah and Fr Adrian Danker.
In his homily, Msgr Ambrose reaffirmed the identity and mission of Catholic educators as he drew parallels to the week’s gospel, in which Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say I am?”
Popular opinion and God’s definition
Msgr Ambrose explained that there is often a popular opinion of the identity of the messiah, who is seen as “a powerful figure; in terms of earthly, political, even military power”, as compared to an identity of the messiah according to God.
He elaborates, “The disciples had got the terminology right, that Jesus is the messiah. But Jesus went on to teach them what this truly meant. The messiah would be like the son of man, a title that would describe obedience to God, such obedience that would even require one to submit to suffering, and to ultimately be put to death.”
In this same way, Msgr Ambrose expresses that there is also often a popular opinion of the identity of teachers, “where the teacher is one that simply imparts knowledge and dispatches information”, as compared to the identity of teachers according to God, “as seen in Jesus, THE teacher”.
He emphasises, “A teacher does much more than impart knowledge, much more than dispatch information. The understanding of the identity of a teacher, as seen in Jesus, is to communicate, to pass on, an experience of God.”
Walking in the presence of the Lord
Going further to reaffirm the identity of a Catholic educator, Msgr Amrbose also highlighted that this seemingly tall order is in fact very possible, if teachers choose to “walk in the presence of the Lord”. This was not only the responsorial psalm for the Mass, but was also the theme of this year’s Teacher’s Day Mass.
“This is what the teacher is ultimately all about. The teacher shares from his or her ordinary experience, of what it is to walk in the presence of the Lord, and to remind others to experience the same joy,” explained Msgr Ambrose.
He also acknowledged the difficulties teachers often face in their work, particularly when students “resist being taught or cared for”. Msgr Ambrose reaffirmed the dedication of educators, who in the face of discouragement, “continues to communicate God’s love in their lives, by the way they live out this conviction of God’s love for us.”
He added that this is why, in the second reading, St James writes that faith is not just something “believed in our minds and hearts, but is also shown, expressed in the way we live”. Because good works always accompanies faith, Msgr Ambrose affirms that, “As teachers, we are tasked really to express, through the life we live, our dedication and service, our commitment to our students, our willingness to express in our lives the love of God.”
Concluding his homily, Msgr Ambrose expressed gratitude to Catholic educators for their service and ministry to God’s children. “On behalf of the Church, the Archdiocese, we really thank all our teachers for being that example of God’s love in the dedication of their lives, in the way that you carry out not only instructing your students, but essentially and hopefully, teaching them the joy of being called by God to be His children,” he said.
The teachers’ fellowship
The Mass was followed by a reception, where visitors as well as student volunteers had their fill of food and drink. Teachers relished in the opportunity to get to know one another, as there were educators who “don’t know many Catholic teachers, because I don’t teach in a Catholic school,” shared Edward Toh, English and Art teacher at East Spring Primary School, “The homily really spoke to me; to recognise Jesus also as a teacher for us.”
Monica Khng, Assistant Programme Teacher at Christian Outreach to the Handicapped, agreed to his sentiments, “It was wonderful to see the students so well co-ordinated with their teachers and the bond and team-spirit they share. It is a nice reminder that we have to be like that as teachers; to build them up and be examples and mentors, as we often stand as moral compasses for students, pointing toward the life of Christ.”
Fr Edward Seah, Interim Executive Director of ACCS, expressed gratitude for the success of the event, which had certainly helped encourage and edify Catholic educators in Singapore. Encouraging educators is one of ACCS’s major interests, as Fr Edward reveals the reason for choosing this year’s theme, “We chose the one that we felt is the most edifying. The theme, ‘Walking in the Presence of the Lord’, helps to remind educators that they are not walking alone. God is always with them, especially so when they are doing God’s work.”