Br. John at his graduation ceremony at CTU in 2017
I have been teaching Old Testament at Catholic Theological Union since 2012. I love it for a couple of reasons.
First, I love my students, who are going to school because they want to serve the Church – an often thankless and ill-paying goal – or because they just want to learn more about their faith and grow closer to God. Second, I love the Bible and the God I meet in the Bible, and I like to invite my students to discover this God, too.
I particularly enjoy teaching the Old Testament because many of my students come to their graduate studies mystified by it, indifferent to it, or dubious of its presentation of God. I am no longer surprised that so many of my students have imbibed the idea that “the God of the Old Testament” is fundamentally different from the God we see in Jesus Christ – and not in a good way.
Since I know that this is not true, I enjoy helping my students learn for themselves that the God to whom the Old Testament witnesses is the same God we encounter in Jesus. Probably nothing is more satisfying to me as a teacher than to hear my students tell me that they never knew how wonderful and rich the Old Testament was, and that learning about it has opened up for them whole new vistas of prayer and faith.
I guess all of this is a long way of saying that I love teaching because when I teach, both I and my students come to love the word of God, and God, more. What’s not to love about that?
(Br. John Barker, OFM, is an Assistant Professor of Old Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a member of the Provincial Council of St. John the Baptist Province.)