Jesus used stories known as parables to teach. The Gospels include 46 parables told by Jesus to His disciples, friends, family, enemies, and crowds to reveal to us the deepest truths about who God is.
Jesus employed three different types of parables in His teaching: similitudes, parables, and exemplary stories (Boucher, 1998). All of them rely on the things of everyday life: what it is like to lose a coin or something precious, the difficulties of parenthood, farming, working, shepherding. In this way, Jesus masterfully used events and situations that were known by and relevant to His audience to teach about Truth.
While Jesus admitted that not all of His parables are easily understood (Mt. 13:10-15), all of them used something relevant to teach something orthodox. What's more, the authenticity with which Jesus taught conveyed the power of His message in even more profound ways. When He taught about love, mercy, forgiveness or anything, He taught with the authority of embodying these actions perfectly. There was no gap between His practice and His preaching.
To teach as Jesus did requires us to teach in orthodox, relevant and authentic ways.
If we are to teach as Jesus did, we must balance relevance with orthodoxy. Our audience must encounter something relevant in order to encounter God's revelation. If our message fails to be accessible, even the most brilliant theological thought will go unabsorbed. "The Church, too, must use contemporary methods and language to proclaim the message of Christ to men and women today. The proclamation of the message is therefore 'not a mere repetition of ancient doctrine' (General Catechetical Directory, 13)" (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1972, #18).
This is why the Church views those of us who form the apostolate of Catholic educators as essential to the mission of Christ. Teachers must be the people who demonstrate to students of any age the successful integration of faith, culture, and life, "This integration of religious truth and values with the rest of life is brought about in the Catholic school not only by its unique curriculum but, more importantly, by the presence of teachers who express an integrated approach to learning and living in their private and professional lives” (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1972, #104).
As St. Pope Paul VI stated and wrote, "Modern (hu)man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he(/she) does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Pope Paul VI, 1975, #41).
So, how do we teach like Jesus did? How do we balance relevance, orthodoxy and authenticity? How do we teach as witnesses?
Simply: spend more time with Jesus. We become like the people with whom we spend the most time. Also, we can't teach about what, or Whom, we don't know.
More specifically, try any or all of the following:
- Pray. There doesn't need to be a script or formula or program behind your time of prayer. Just dialogue with Jesus on a consistent basis.
- Talk to someone whose faith you admire. Don't be intimidated. A true disciple will be honored by your acknowledgement of their faith. And, disciples create disciples.
- Read the scripture from the daily Mass, or at the very least the Gospel, where we can witness Jesus's life and words: https://bible.usccb.org.
- Spend (more) time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration is being in the presence of someone you love. You don't need to say anything or do anything. You can just be. Even just for five minutes, just be with God.
- Receive Holy Communion and/or Reconciliation more often than your current practice.
- Pray the Rosary. Mary brought Jesus into the world; when we go to her, she can bring Her Son to us. Start small (consider praying one Rosary per month, or one Rosary a week, or a decade of the Rosary five days a week, or even just a heartfelt Hail Mary). And, do some research. These six minutes from Dr. Edward Sri are well worth the investment (24:35 - 30:15).