Every teacher abhors standardized testing for their students, not because their jobs are now conditioned upon the success of their students on such tests, but because everyone knows that people learn in different ways, though they are only tested in one way. The tests do not reflect the diversity of learning styles that exist among human beings: some are auditory learners, others are visual learners, while others may be tactile or kinesthetic learners. St. Paul knew this fact two thousand years ago as he catalogued the variety of gifts and talents God gives to people in the life of the Church. The person who has received the gift of prophecy cannot be judged on the criteria of teaching, any more than the teacher can be measured on the criteria of someone with the gift of tongues.
And yet there is a universal criteria that does apply to every human person, whether Christian or not. There is a standardized test for the entire human race at the end of time, and it is not a catechism quiz or a dissertation on dogmatic formulae. The test is the set of questions offered to the sheep and goats in Matthew 25: did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, clothe to the naked, and welcome the stranger? What is more, the standardized test is an open book test: we know the questions in advance and we have a lifetime to complete the questions. And as an open book test we have the Book to consult as a guide to help us complete the questions.
In the first reading the people of Israel rejoice in having the law read to them from the scroll. This moment recorded in the book of Nehemiah is a watershed moment in the history of Israel and humankind in general. Prior to this time the law was transmitted orally through memorization, but now Israel has the law recorded on scrolls so they can be accessed by the whole people. The reading of the scroll is an emotional moment, for we have a plan for living that comes from God. No other nation on earth has a god that cares for people in the way God does for Israel. The law enables us to know God’s will and to successfully accomplish the questions for the day of judgment.
What the people of Israel lacked was an example of someone who perfectly lived the law of God in his or her life. Kings would come and each one would fail in some way to appropriate the law in their lives. The prophets came to admonish the leaders and the people to live the law faithfully, but they faced persecution, rejection, and marginalization. And yet Israel had the courage to include the teachings of the prophets in the official scriptures of her people. Israel stands as a unique example of a culture and a people who accept and appropriate self-criticism within its history and ethos.
The prophetic tradition brought with it the expectation of a Messiah who would live the law perfectly, and through that example of perfect living would liberate God’s people from every possible form of oppression. In the Gospel text Jesus announces that this expectation is fulfilled in himself. The entire ministry of Jesus as recorded in the gospel texts confirms this mission of Jesus. When John the Baptist tells his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is the one or should they look for another, Jesus replies: “Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news preached to them.”
Jesus proclaimed that he was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to accomplish this work, an anointing and ministry that we share in baptism and confirmation. Every Christian has the obligation to carry out this ministry of care and concern for the poor; it is a fundamental component of being a Christian. To neglect this obligation is to reject the call of Christ, for it is the only standard by which we are measured in the eyes of God. We all have a variety of gifts and callings within the body of Christ, but they all exist to serve the fundamental Christian vocation of imitating Christ in his mission to the poor and vulnerable.
As we seek to become more faithful to our mission as followers of Jesus, we need to know His will for us and to see the example of Jesus in the Gospels. We pray that the knowledge of God’s will and the example of the Lord Jesus will help us in our ministry to others: “Let us pray, pleading that our vision may overcome our weakness. Almighty Father, the love you offer always exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing, for you are greater than the human heart. Direct each thought, each effort of our life, so that the limits of our faith and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of your glory or keep us from the peace you have promised. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Jude Huntz is Chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.
Daily Scripture Readings
For complete daily Scripture texts, click here. http://www.usccb.org
Monday, January 28
Hebrews 9:15, 24-28
Psalms 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6
Tuesday, January 29
Psalms 40:2, 4ab, 7-8a, 10, 11
Wednesday, January 30
Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Thursday, January 31
Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
Friday, February 1
Psalms 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Saturday, February 2
Psalms 24:7, 8, 9, 10
Hebrews 2: 14-18
Luke 2:22-40 or 2:22-32
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday February 3
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13
Monday, February 4
Psalms 31:20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Tuesday, February 5
Psalms 22:26b-27, 28, 30, 31-32
Wednesday, February 6
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15
Psalms 103:1-2, 13-14, 17-18a
Thursday, February 7
Hebrews 12:18-19, 21-24
Psalms 48:2-3ab, 3cd-4, 9, 10-11
Friday February 8
Psalms 27:1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc
Saturday, February 9
Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21
Psalms 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday February 10
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 15:3-8, 11
The full text of the Scripture readings for this week and next week can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/
Click on the “Daily Readings” tab on the right hand side of the page.