The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong designates the fourth Sunday in September every year as the “Education Day.” The purpose is to reaffirm the importance of education to individuals and society and to enhance its impact.
The theme of this year’s Education Day “Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” and the content of the article hereby attached are drawn from the three Scripture Readings of the 26th Sunday Liturgy of Ordinary Time.
Paul taught Timothy to pursue six virtues hoping that Timothy could make the Word of God take root, sprout and grow in the world and one day become a towering tree. Nurturing people takes decades of years and is no easy job. It requires reverence for one’s own beliefs, supported by one’s perseverance and patience, and a goodwill to spread the faith in God, the righteousness and the love of God. This is the mission that Paul entrusted to Timothy, and it is also our mission to guide brothers and sisters within and outside the Church.
Let us with a respectful and receptive heart, listen to and practice the teachings of St. Paul the Apostle, sanctify ourselves and at the same time walk with others in the pursuit of the faith, even taking up the roles of “Moses and the Prophets” (reference article para. 22).
Education Day 2022
(4th Sunday in September 25/9/2022)
“Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” (1 Tm 6:11b)
- According to tradition of the Church, 1 Timothy is a letter written by Paul to his student Timothy, teaching him how to be a good shepherd in the Church community. In this context, Paul was not only a preacher of the faith, but also a teacher. In this sense, “teachers” mean not only those who serve at schools, but also those serving the Faith in the Church.
Teachers of the Faith
- What do teachers do? In the article “Discourse on Teacher,” Han Yu, a renowned official and writer of ancient literature in the Táng Dynasty, believed that the first task of a teacher is “to preach,” which is also in line with Paul’s words to Timothy, “Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12) Paul instructed Timothy by passing onto him the Word of God, hoping that he would be able to preach this saving gospel to others.
- Can we be teachers? According to the mission that Jesus Christ gave his disciples before his Ascension, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), every Christian is entrusted with the mission to preach the word of God to others. Although there is only one true teacher who is Jesus Christ, every Christian having received the teaching of Christ has the responsibility at the same time to pass it on, just as Paul entrusted it to Timothy. This is what it means for all Christians to be teachers.
- The early Church had realized that in carrying out the mission of evangelization, teachers held an important position. Therefore, Paul said this about the roles in the Church: ” Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers” (1 Corinthians 12:28) Teachers are next only to the apostles and the prophets in the order of their roles. This shows the importance of preaching and reminds us that after receiving Christ, we all are teachers to preach the Faith.
What to Preach
- So, how should we act as a teacher? Paul reminded Timothy to pursue six virtues. Virtues are habits of good characters. The display of virtues consists of two parts, namely “knowledge” and “practice,” the cognitive and the pragmatic dimensions respectively. The nurturing of virtues centers on “core values” and one must understand these values and comprehend their meaning. However, understanding alone is inadequate, because virtues refer more to the persistency of good habits. People must engrave virtues in their own lives, and through practice actualize and manifest them in both words and deeds. Until then will they be genuinely virtuous.
- Therefore, as teachers, we need to understand the meaning of these virtues, to put them into practice and at the same time to teach others the same. Just as when Jesus began preaching, not only did he tell the world, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17), but he also consistently showed others great concern, performing miracles. Through his actions, he told the world that he himself is the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, we have to preach and further more we need to practice.
- The educational philosophy of all Catholic schools in Hong Kong includes five core values: pursuing truth, upholding justice, living out love, cherishing life, and safeguarding the family. These five core values either correspond or relate to the six virtues that Paul invited Timothy to pursue. Similarly, we invite every Christian to be a good teacher in his life, bringing others these important values of the Catholic faith.
The Importance of Values
- In recent years the Marvel Movies have significantly shaped the mainstream of the secular culture. The plot of one of these movies “Avengers: Infinity War” triggers our reflection on the impact of values. In the movie, Thanos, the villain, believed that too many offspring of humankind would eventually destroy the universe. Therefore, he pursued after the Infinity Gauntlet which when inlaid with the six Infinity Gems would fulfill any infinite wish of its owner. As a result, after collecting the six gems, Thanos made a wish that half of humankind in the entire universe should die.
- When the movie was released in 2018, people argued whether Thanos’ approach was right or wrong. Killing half of the population in order to save the whole has ironically turned out to be an arguable topic. This shows exactly how crucial it is to bring up correct values. The progress of society has brought about changes and an array of thoughts. If we fail to grasp the key essence of correct values, “fake values” often sneak in to replace the truth of Christ, and will even become seemingly correct over time.
- Before inviting Timothy to pursue the six virtues, Paul asked Timothy to “avoid these things” (1 Timothy 6:11a). “These things” refer to secular values. Each of the six gems to be inlaid on the Infinity Gauntlet that can destroy half of the population has its own characteristics: Soul, Time, Space, Mind, Reality and Power. Though named as “Soul” and “Mind”, both refer to a superpower foreign to our usual spiritual context.
- The six gems point to the superpower brought by science and technology in the real world. These six gems inlaid on the glove symbolizes that man can grasp superhuman power in one’s hand, which is the secular urge of today. Any secular temptation is just as tasty and beautiful as Adam’s forbidden fruit and there is always a plausible reason for its attraction. Just as the Prophet Amos warned those living in “wanton revelry shall be done away with”, （Am 6:7） humankind in the movie indulging their endless desires and ignoring the world, eventually brought about the temptation of the disastrous infinite glove. Thanos was probably concerned with the survival of the universe, but even the right goal cannot rationalize evil means. Moreover, his fundamental option is his ego. With his own standards, he decided how the world should be, thus resulting in tremendous harm done.
- In “1 Timothy”, what Paul asked Timothy to avoid was the temptation of wealth (ref. 1 Tm 6:1-10) which was the reality of life in the early Church. As of today, what to avoid is not only money, but also the worldly danger of over reliance on realities of life, over reliance on technology and over reliance on oneself.
- Just like the rich man in today’s Gospel, he is wealthy, lives his own life but ignores the poor and sick Lazarus. From the narrow sense of pragmatic norm of living, he has no responsibility, which is reminiscent of Cain’s response to God: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) The problem of today’s society is precisely those extremely egoistic and pragmatic values that have taken root in people’s hearts. Because of this, Paul’s six virtues are even more worthwhile of our reflection.
Virtues and Faith
- Righteousness means to treat everyone fairly. Reverence means the sincerest respect. Faith means wholehearted belief. Love means the sincerest affection for others. Perseverance makes people willing to endure all kinds of trials and difficulties to achieve designated noble goals. Kindness is to maintain goodwill in the heart and be caring to others. All these six are good virtues, but without God at their core, we might distort and misapply them.
- The authentic justice in interpersonal relationships is built upon the “image of God” in man. We treat everyone fairly, not because he is intelligent or foolish, noble or lowly, but because we see the image of God in everyone. Fairness is not like Thanos’ approach: after actuating his lethal wish, who is to die and who is to survive is at random and thus is “fair”. This concept of justice fails to see the dignity of man because it ignores that we are created by God and the sovereignty of life belongs to Him alone.
- The ultimate dignitary of piety is God, because God Himself is the Truth. If the sincere respect is directed towards a wrong target, this piety will lead people in the wrong direction, even away from God. Saving the universe is a good intention, but a wrong path brings only irreversible devastating consequences. Indeed, whole-hearted devotion to God is a noble virtue of man for one must believe in order to be able to approach Him, then to know and practice His holy will, and to “work through love”（ Ga 5:6）when approaching others.
- Love is also one of the five core values of Catholic schools. Like Faith, it is a supernatural virtue, which means that people can genuinely practice these virtues only by the grace of God. Only by honestly recognizing that God is the Truth can one’s faith be fully mature, otherwise it will only be partial. In the same way, man is able to love others fully, but it comes not from our human nature but only from God, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) (ref. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825).
- The source of perseverance also comes from God. Paul said this: “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope.” (Rm 5:3b-4) Man can persevere as he places hope in God, believing that behind even greater difficulties and sufferings is the goodness of God awaiting him. During the lifetime of Jesus, out of his goodness, he was repeatedly moved with pity and driven to action, such as multiplying bread for the crowd (Mt 14: 14), resurrecting the only begotten son of the widow (Lk 7: 13), showing mercy to the adulterous woman (John 8: 1-11), etc. The goodness of Jesus can be conveyed to the full precisely because he is the Son of God Himself.
- Paul invited Timothy to pursue these six virtues, which he had already practised in his own life. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was not confined by xenophobic thoughts of the Chosen People, which was an expression of righteousness. His “list of sufferings” showed undoubtedly his patience in his mission. He tried to reach and preach to the “ends of the earth” as perceived by the people at that time, all out of his total trust in God and his great love for men. Being gentle and devoted, though humiliated in the church of Corinth, he did not give up this community because of his devout faith and his scarifying love for others.
- If the six virtues represent God and the six gems represent the secular world, between God and the secular world is the “great chasm” that separates the rich man from Lazarus in the Gospel (Lk 16:26). The rich man who cares about earthly matters cannot approach Lazarus because of his life attitude of caring only about himself in the world, so there is an abyss between him and the Kingdom of Heaven. The great gap does not come from outside, but arises from within him.
- Amidst today’s chaotic values, erroneous thoughts, rhetoric and viewpoints sneak into people’s mind unconsciously, leading them to the abyss and away from God. When the rich man ended up in eternal chastisement, he was anxious for his relatives and hoped that Abraham would send someone “from the dead” to let them know that they should not be attached to the world but to God. (ref. Lk 16:27-31)
- Abraham’s response deserves to be well remembered by every Christian: “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.“ (Lk 16:29). “Moses and the prophets” here were exactly those who had responsibilities to teach the Israelites and to lead them to God. The crucial point is that whether people nowadays can find God and embrace Christ depends on spiritual teachers who tell them the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Who are the spiritual teachers of men today? They are those who believe in “the resurrection from the dead”, that is, every Christian who has received the sacraments of initiation, you and I. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and have risen with him. Because of our knowledge and practice, today, we also have to shoulder the role of Moses and the prophets, to be preachers, and to be teachers of other people’s spiritual life.
- Paul entrusted the Holy Word of God to Timothy and started the transmission of faith. In this transmission from generation to generation, every Christian today is a student and at the same time a teacher. Today we reflect on the six virtues that Paul invited Timothy to pursue. It also invites each of us to learn and practice, to spread the Word of God, the words and deeds of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. Let everyone become His student and at the same time gladly become other people’s teacher.
Teachers’ Mission of Evangelization
- While every Christian is a preacher, teachers at school should even more be prophets to preach the gospel in their teaching profession. May every catholic teacher be graced with Paul’s teaching and pursue in his own life the six virtues mentioned. May each teacher pass on these virtues to their students by words and deeds, just as Paul did to Timothy. May this inheritance one day transform the secular world so deeply addicted to the ego, thus drawing us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Prayer of the Faithful (for reference only)
- Let us pray for the Universal Church and the Church in Hong Kong. May the Holy Spirit enlighten and guide our pastors to loyally follow the teachings of the Head of the Church — Christ the Lord Himself when faced with challenges inside and outside the Church, to witness the truth, uphold justice, practise charity, pour out mercy and bring about peace. For this, we pray to the Lord.
- Let us pray for the Hong Kong society. May the Lord grant our leaders, decision-makers and the general public abundant graces of the Holy Spirit, a mindset to respect and obey the truth, wisdom to distinguish right from wrong, a broad and in-depth vision and insight, an appreciation of diversities and empowerment in the spirit of communion and cooperation. For this, we pray to the Lord.
- Let us pray for Catholic schools. May the Lord bless their school culture so that the community life at schools may lead them to an encounter with Christ. May the Lord help teachers and students live a pious and dignified life, purify their mind and spirit, develop their potential and find the meaning of life. For this, we pray to the Lord.
- Let us pray for educators. May the Lord accompany them, granting them wisdom and intelligence, motivation and love, patience and courage. May they listen to and meditate on His Words daily so as to know the truth, remain steadfast in their professional roles and always have hope when faced with new challenges. For this, we pray to the Lord.
- Let us pray for students. May the Lord enlighten them with clear values, strengthen their sense of right and wrong so that they may be inspired to resist temptations, to choose what is good and to renounce all vices, to love and cherish life, to enrich themselves, to serve others and to contribute to society. For this, we pray to the Lord.
- Let us pray for the family. May the Lord be with every family so that all members can embrace each other with love, patience, understanding, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. May the Lord bless the parents so that they may nurture children by their good example, pursue and practise with them the truth revealed by Christ. For this, we pray to the Lord.
 From the second reading on 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C（25/9/2022）
 From the first reading on 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C（25/9/2022）
 From the Gospel reading on 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C（25/9/2022）
 From the Gospel reading on 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C（25/9/2022）
 From the Gospel reading on 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C（25/9/2022）