Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent 2012 Week 1

Today's Psalm (25) is striking:

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.

There ought to be a book about the "education Psalms." Certainly the whole trajectory of Scripture is aimed at the making explicit the content of the revealed truth that God is with us--by virtue of the primordial history of Genesis, the Patriarchs, the liberating events of the wondrous flight from Egypt, the desert wanderings, the up-and-down history of the Israelites, the powerful witness of the line of the Prophets, the endlessly fascinating mixture of the Writings, and the "new primordial history" of the first community of the Church. But there is contained here also an invitation to a reflective dimension describing how God teaches, in addition to what God teaches.

Our job, especially as teachers, is to consider what kind of students we are, to examine our readiness to learn, and to consider what kind of students God considers us to be. Do we examine ourselves with the same kind of clarity and compassion with which we see the young persons who assemble before us at each class period? How deeply do we consider that we are also learners as we expect the students to be. Think about it: God teaches not only the avid, friendly and hard-working souls. As the Gospels witness, God teaches and shows an infinite caring and adaptability facing the reluctant, closed-minded and hardly-working folk in the community of the Church as well.

Take it a little further: we say, as Thomas Aquinas does, that learning happens "according to the capacity of the receiver." Do we consider that God approaches us in deference to the style that is effective for us? Are we the readers, the doers, the actors, the can't-sit-down types, the shout-it-out types? If the attribution is correct, St. Francis' much-quoted advice must apply to us as well: "Preach always; if necessary, use words."

So I invite each of you, theologians, to use this first week of Advent as a mini-retreat to consider yourselves God's literal learners. We all must grow in self-awareness so that our pedagogy and our lives are more truly "with God."

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