11th Week in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 17, 2018

First reading: Ez. 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Second reading: 2 Cor. 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Gospel: Mk. 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

In other words Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD (University of San Carlos, Cebu City)

As the educational reform gains traction we are learning more about learning. We realize how much of early childhood learning is intuitive, distinct from the logical and progressive reasoning of adults; kids tinkering with cellphones deploy more features faster than their grandparents can read instruction manuals to learn which symbols stand for which functions.

Educational goals are up for debate. Traditional high school segued seamlessly to college, eventually sorting out the blue-collar employees from the white-collar professionals. Today Senior High proposes terminal goals like initial employment or business. Aspirants to college must first pass scholastic aptitude tests, and their competencies will be assessed along eight Qualification levels.

Many parents are unconvinced that mother-tongue-based multilingual education works. Older faculty find the transition from disciplinal teaching to spiral progression too messy or confusing. Those educated in the banking mode where the expert provides input, mostly by lecturing, must now grapple with interactive outcomes-based education.

Paradigms of teaching and learning are evolving. Teachers are being weaned away from an older system where the main actor was the teacher, to whose standards every student had to adjust. In the new system the focus is on the learner, sensitivity to multiple intelligences, learning styles, competency preferences, and customized pedagogies. The expert teacher must evolve into a “learning facilitator,” offering more formative and less summative assessments.

Against such a background of general education and professional training we are astounded by the genius of Jesus the Master Teacher, his pedagogy via parables, his systematic training of select apostles, and his mentoring through focus discussions. Conflicts became teachable moments; crises turned into openings to assess whether lessons had been assimilated. He trusted that ultimately the validation of the gospel would not be primarily intellectual, but attitudinal, and that the testing would not be constructed but existential.

Faith-education cannot be less reflective and methodical; it cannot be limited to pure catechesis. Catholic educators will have to reflect more on how building up of the Kingdom can be taught in outcomes-based methods, what specific skills are needed by master-trainers in religion, what level of moral mentorship is effective, what spiritual guidance is relevant to the digital age, why ministry formation has not produced the leadership the church needs, and so on.

For today Jesus merely reminds the faith-educator about an indispensable lesson: teachers only sow seeds; it is the believer-learner who actually grows the personal knowledge of God as Father and of Jesus as Savior. Faith has its own dynamic, and only the Holy Spirit is in full control of it through grace. All any apostle can do is to bring someone in contact with Jesus so God can do the rest.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word