Good morning to you
Sr Rita, Head of our Education Commission and all the members of the organising team of this year’s educators conference
Dear teachers, friends, ladies and gentlemen
First of all, I wish to thank you for giving your time this weekend to come together to reflect on your faith, your teaching career, and above all, your mission as Catholic educators. I believe through the help of the facilitators, you will discover something new in being Catholic educators.
These two days you have a theme to focus on, that is, “Educating joyfully in the Spirit of Christ.” It is a beautiful theme, something that we pray and hope for; but it is also a challenging theme, because you are invited to educate others with joy, with a smiling face. Do you think this is possible?
I know the teaching career is one of the well paid jobs in government service. I heard some government primary school teachers are earning three to four thousand ringgit per month. That is quite a big sum. Some teachers are also giving tuition and they are earning more.
But surprisingly I still see many teachers complaining about their workloads. Many are putting on long faces, especially when they are asked to meet the targets set by the Education Department. The officers put pressure on the headmasters, the headmasters put pressure on the teachers, and the teachers put pressure on the students. Tension increases when targets are not achieved.
I remember reading news about teachers releasing their tensions on their students by assaulting them physically. There were also incidences whereby teachers broke down mentally. So we have a situation where smiles and laughter are not often being experienced in the entire education system. I am sure as teachers you would have noticed this, and do not want such gloomy situation to continue. You want to see changes in the system. What then can you do? I think the change should come from you, not only as Catholic teachers, but above all, as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Maybe you need to ask this question: what is the difference between you and other teachers who are not Christians? The difference is that you have heard and accepted the Good News of salvation.
What is that Good News of salvation? It is that God, the Creator of the universe, has come into the world two thousand years ago. He took the form of a human person in Jesus Christ, taught humankind the meaning of life, showed us how to live this life in relation with Him and with one another, opened our eyes to see His wonders, pointed to us the road towards eternal life, and finally proved to us His unconditional love by dying on the cross. But death could not stop His mission of love, His mission of salvation. He rose again from the dead on the third day. And He promised to be with us until the end of time. For those who believe in Him, He lives in them and they live in Him, like vine and the branches. He wants to share eternal joy and happiness with all His creatures.
This is the JOY of the Gospel, the joy that all disciples of Jesus have, when they make Jesus truly as the Number One of their lives. What about you? Do you find joy in being a disciple of Jesus? Do you share that joy with others?
As disciples of Jesus teaching in schools, that JOY of the Gospel should constantly be transmitted in the way you relate with the other teachers, in the way you relate with your students, in the way you relate with officers from the Department, in the way you relate with members of your own family.
You will no longer feel the pressure of workload because you know that whatever target set by the Department is aimed to improve the standard of the students. You will no longer feel extra classes or tuition as burdensome because you are ready to walk the extra mile for the love of the young generation. You will also no longer see money as the motivating factor because you find out that it is more rewarding to share your knowledge freely.
Dear friends, our Holy Father Pope Francis has written an encyclical letter called “Evangelii Gaudium” or “The Joy of the Gospel.” He encourages us to share the Good News of salvation with joy to a world that is plagued by sorrows and sadness caused by human beings themselves. That joy does not only come from our knowledge of who Jesus is, but more so from our personal encounter with Him.
We are invited to meet Jesus face to face each day through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Scriptures, through devotions and religious practices such as Holy Hour, Divine Mercy prayers, rosary and so on, and even through the faces of the poor and sufferings.
Once we have encountered Him personally, we will see and understand life from a new perspective, a perspective of faith, hope and love. We will find life as a gift from God for the love of others. And of course, you will find teaching not only as a career but as a mission, something which you can contribute to the betterment of society.
I pray that as you continue to share and reflect on the theme of this conference, you will be ready to be the change agents in our education system. When you bring back smiles on your faces and joy in your hearts, the Spirit of Christ will lead you on to be the witnesses of God’s love wherever you are.
Thank you and may God bless you all.