Like the Teacher

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.  Mt 10: 24-25

The tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is a sort of turning point for the twelve disciples in their journey of following Jesus. Up until this point, Jesus had always been the One to act and His disciples had been the spectators, His comrades, His closest confidants but not quite participants or sharers in His mission…yet. It is in the tenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel that these twelve disciples become apostles; they are sent by Jesus…sent to be like Him, like their Teacher.

With this mandate, Jesus communicates to them that it is not enough for them to witness His works. He wants more for them. He wants more for us. He wants us to be like Him – instruments of His presence, channels of His grace, laborers in His vineyard.

This must have left the Twelve dumbfounded to say the least. They have seen from very close up what it means to be Jesus, what Jesus can do, how He speaks, and they have also recognized the variety of reactions that Jesus’ presence provokes. They, more than anyone else, could testify to His power, to His divinity, to His extraordinariness…to the mystery that He still was to them. They had firsthand experience of the wonder and awe that is stirred in a heart that witnesses a blind man see and a lame man walk. They had direct experience of the freedom and joy that comes from being under His gaze, a gaze that communicates a love that is personal and all-encompassing. They have had one-on-one conversations with Him and have been spoken to in a way like never before. They have been known in their darkest sin and have received mercy. Each of them had been transformed and made new by His presence in their life. And now they hear that same gentle and trustworthy voice say: become like Me for others.

I can only imagine what was going through their hearts and minds. It is one thing to admire the way Jesus lives. It is another to embrace it as your own way of living. It is much easier to invite Jesus to live His love and His justice in a particular situation – like, for example, a disagreement with a friend – than to love as He loves and be just as He is just in that same situation. In Matthew 10, Jesus is being very clear: As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons (v. 7-8). He is sending them to preach as He preaches and to perform miracles as He performs miracles. When before they would say “Jesus, come perform a miracle here”, Jesus now says: “I give you the same authority to perform the needed miracle in my Name.”

Why does Jesus do this? What is the divine logic behind what does not seem to humanly make any sense? In this same chapter of Matthew, it is written: Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give (v. 8). Jesus could do it alone. He does not need the Twelve any more than He needs any one of us. That leaves only one reason: He wants to work through us. He chooses us as His vessels. He desires to share everything with us – even His power over evil, even His prophetic word, even His way of loving, even His intimacy with the Father and the Spirit, even His Mother. He has freely given all of this to these twelve simple, ordinary, unassuming men on no merit of their own. Now, He is asking them to just as freely share these gifts with others.

It is important to note that He does not send anyone out alone. Just as He is always accompanied by the Father and the Holy Spirit, so too does He promise this to His new apostles. Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Mt 10:19-20). Again, He is inviting us to be like Him, not to substitute ourselves for Him. No disciple is above his teacher…it is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher (Mt 10:24-25). Jesus remains the Teacher. He knows our hearts intimately and personally. He knows what lesson we are ready for, and He wants to see us grow and thrive. For example, His is the inner Voice that encourages us to ask forgiveness and seek clarity after a miscommunication with a friend. He knows that we will only be fulfilled once our lives are completely conformed to His and we live and love as He lives and loves.

In the Universal Church there is a vast tradition of the imitatio Christi – the imitation of Christ. Over the centuries, the Church has been seeking to heed this command of Matthew 10. We can see this in the lives of the Saints, various lay movements, and numerous spiritual writers. Saint Francis of Assisi, known for his radical poverty, chose that poverty only after having encountered the poverty of Christ: For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). One of the most famous spiritual books, translated in many different languages, is directly entitled: The Imitation of Christ. Today we also want to allow ourselves to be “disturbed” by these words of Christ. It is good if they pierce your heart a little bit and give you something to ponder. It is good if you are asking yourself: How is it that Christ is inviting me to be more like Him? In a particular way, through this new Spring of Water series, we want to focus on the way Christ enters into relationship with others. We live in a world so torn by division and conflict. How are we being called to imitate Christ in the way He lives His relationships, in the way He encounters others? How are we being called to love like the Teacher?

Suggested Concrete Resolutions:

  1. I will read slowly and meditatively through Matthew 10 as if Jesus’ words were being addressed directly to me. As I do this, I notice what stirs in my heart. I talk to Jesus about these things with honesty and simplicity, asking for Him to give me the grace I need to be more like Him in my daily life. For example, if I am struck by the words drive out demons (v. 8) I ask the Lord to help me bring a benevolent word in a conversation where the tone is more negative.
  2. Is there a situation in my life right now where I find myself thinking: “if only Jesus were here to do what only He can do”? I boldly ask the Lord: could you be asking me to be Your presence in that situation? And as I enter into it, knowing that He is not sending me alone, I can pray a simple prayer: “Jesus live your [peace, patience, gentleness, …insert desired characteristic of Jesus] in and through me.”

This month’s meditation is by Sr. Cherise, AVI.

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