“On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.” (LK 6:6-11)
As a student of education, I learned that I must evaluate my students’ behavior and their academic progress. When I actually ended up in the classroom, teaching boys with special needs, I learned that the best I could do was to create an environment where learning could take place. I further learned that evaluating them, i.e. giving them grades was not very conducive to that environment unless I gave them all “A’s”. To the total chagrin of my principal that is exactly what I did, I gave the majority of my students, “A’s”.
Learning to listen to others, children or adults, continues to challenge me almost on a daily basis. I witness behavior that I believe deserves punishment and correction and I am often crazy enough to think it is my job to administer, if not the punishment, at least some correction. Of course, that doesn’t work. Like what my students taught me above, I have to first recognize the ideas and suggestions that I can relate to, confirm them or give “A’s” to the ones I agree with, and hope that in the encounter, we both will recognize our common humanity and create an environment in which we can grow together in peace and harmony.
Like my experience with my first principal, Jesus’ experience in today’s gospel selection, leads to problems for Jesus. Jesus acts on his beliefs and cures the man with the withered hand enraging those in authority. (I only caused my poor principal some vexation).
Today, I have to remind myself that unlike Jesus, I am not god, and maybe I am or have been wrong. My prayer, however, is that like Jesus, I will continue to listen, to listen especially to people who see life differently than I see it, identify with what I can, be willing to take action and hope for the miracle. The miracle for me in my teaching career, came years later when a returning student who was a grandpa by then, told me: “You taught me to read.”
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.