The Importance of Our Witness
“Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
I remember a teacher I had in the fourth grade who taught our religion class. I’m sure we learned about the Ten Commandments that year, and probably the Beatitudes, etc. But this teacher yelled at us often and even made insulting remarks to the whole class, especially to certain students. This teacher could have been said to be teaching us the commandments, but she certainly didn’t practice what she preached. The witness of her life contradicted her words, and, unfortunately, her actions are what have stayed in my memory until now, not her class lessons. “Whoever obeys and teaches.…”
In order to teach others, we must obey the commandments ourselves. Our way of life needs to be consistent with what we believe. That’s why Jesus also says, “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so.…” To give a bad example is to teach others to break the commandments, especially if the bad example is given to someone we have greater influence over.
The opposite difficulty can also be found. One could be among those who obey the commandments, living good lives, but fall short, perhaps out of fear, of taking an active part in sharing or passing on the teachings of Jesus.
Many of us are blessed to have had in our lives people who both obeyed and taught the commandments of God. Most of us first learned about Jesus from our mother or father. We can probably also think of many other people who were models and teachers to us throughout our lives—schoolteachers, pastors, relatives, neighbors, and friends. The faith is always received through the mediation of others—their teachings and example. And as we have received, so we are called to give.
Jesus, sometimes I find myself in a situation where I could explain something about the Church or your teachings to my friends or coworkers who are not Catholic. Often I’m too timid to do it. Other times, I exempt myself from living according to your way of life, which I hold everyone else to. Help me to live more honestly. Make me your bold disciple and apostle.
Jesus, you are the way I want to follow.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 60–61). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.