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Reflections on Homily 13 on the Gospel of John

John Mark Reynolds, 2004.

St. John Chrysostom: HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: “although we have this strong consolation, and are confident of the recompense that shall be made us, still when we see that the work in you does not go forward, our state is not better than the state of those husbandmen who lament and mourn, who hide their faces and are ashamed. This is the sympathy of a teacher this is the natural care of a father.”

The words of Chrysostom comfort every teacher. What of the student who goes wrong? The Saint recognizes this possibility, even in a good teacher. He comforts us, a bit, by pointing out that we will receive a reward for our good labor, but as he points out this does not take away the “father’s” sorrow for a wayward child. Chrysostom recognizes that there is a spiritual reward for teaching. This reward is very attractive to new teachers, but no one tells of the pain of students who drift away from the faith.

On top of that, we cannot have the confidence that Saint John Chrysostom has about his own holiness and effectiveness as a mentor. When I started teaching, I was too young. No one should teach at twenty, as I did. My students were too much like peers, as many of them nearly were. My goal was to be a friend. I hope they forgive me for this and as they too have grown older have seen the wisdom of age soften the harsh judgements of youth. As I grow older, and I hope see more of Christ, the right vantage point comes more naturally. Students must be like my own children. I must nourish them and protect them. Too many teachers gain cheap popularity by siding with students in their complaints and culture. My job is to help them grow to have adult culture! The teaching of Chrysostom is also goal directed and ideological. He wants his students to be Christians, not in some generic sense, but in a sense of building the cause of Christ. He sets a high standard that please God I can begin to meet in every college class I teach.

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