Teachers don’t get enough credit. They are liberators. By their generous service, they free us from the dangers and restrictions of ignorance. They inspire us with the wonders of nature and art, walk with us through the story of humanity and lift our minds to contemplate ideals and virtues. Educere, the Latin root of “educate,” means “to lead out.” That is what teachers do. They lead us out of our native darkness into the light of wisdom, knowledge and learning. But, of course, to do any of this, we first have to listen to them. For our own good, we allow teachers an authority in our lives. We listen to them, we obey them, because we trust them to teach the truth; “and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus’ contemporaries remark upon his authority. At a mere word, he has the power to drive out demons. They marvel, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.” Like any teacher, Jesus has authority, and that authority is exercised for the good of others. Like any teacher, Jesus wants to lead us out of darkness by the truths he teaches; but these truths, only Jesus can teach: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (Jn 1:18). Jesus alone can teach the truths we most need to know, the truths about God, about his love and our salvation. These truths set us free; but, of course, we first need to listen.
Saint Paul touches on this freedom in the call to celibacy: “An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.” An individual responding to the call of celibacy experiences it as an increased freedom. It is not a constraint. Freed from the many anxieties of this world, their life more closely resembles the life of heaven. Jesus has absolute authority in the celibate’s life. He thinks only “how he may please the Lord.” As Jesus dominates in a life, greater freedom is always the result.
Moses foresees, “a prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up...to him you shall listen.” Like Moses, Jesus is a liberator; he has come to free us from slavery and lead us to the Promised Land. He has come to teach the truth that sets us free. But, as with any teacher, he needs us to listen. We first have to acknowledge his authority. The Father himself has testified on his behalf: “this is my beloved Son...listen to him.” But it is up to us to accept him as the Teacher.