We’re All Teachers - A Reflection on Mark 6:7-13
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
In the Gospel of John we find Jesus saying a rather curious thing. He says to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”. Finishing the work? Although he is close to his Passion, it is still a while before the work of salvation is completed. So what does Jesus mean when he thanks his father for “finishing the work” that he gave to do.
Although his main mission was to open the gates of the kingdom of heaven to mankind, he had another mission: to train people to bring others to the gates of heaven. And this training didn’t consist of just giving them instructions in what they needed to say; it was in teaching them what they should do to show people that they came in his name.
When speaking of this commission Matthew puts it more elaborately. Jesus instructs his apostles as he sends them out. “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8).
Now, having received this training - the work that Jesus had finished - it was up to the apostles to train others, and in this, we find understanding about the Catholic concept of Sacred Tradition, which often confuses people. The word “tradition” actually means “handing down” something to another person. Not everything the apostles taught was written because the Bible as we have come to know it was put together only in 382 AD. That’s 350 years after Christ died and rose again.
So how was the faith spread? Through the oral word and letters, the apostles wrote. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes: “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by the letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). And then, writing to Timothy whom he trained, he said, “And the things you have heard me say ... entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
What we have learned (and practiced!), let us pass on, first to our children, and then to others around us.