Saturday, 6 February 2016

Week 4 Saturday (Year 2) - 6 February 2016

Readings: 1 Kings 3:4-13; Psalm 119:9-14; Mark 6:30-34

In the wilderness sheep wander but people learn. If they have a good teacher, that is. Jesus' response is classic, then, teaching them 'many things'. Another translation has 'at some length', it seems to mean something like 'everything'.

When we are lost in a wilderness we are apt to learn. We have lost our sense of direction, are not sure where we should go, what we should do, where food and shelter are to be found. So we are disposed to learn, docile in an exceptional way in exceptional circumstances.

Teaching and learning are mysterious processes, perhaps we should say one mysterious process. Is it a matter of drawing out what is already inside but has become hidden in some way, forgotten, or is it putting something new into a person, new knowledge, new understanding?

Two great teachers of the Christian tradition, Augustine and Aquinas, say (following Jesus in the gospel) that God is the only real Teacher. Our appreciation of the truth comes about as a result of God's presence and stimulation in the human mind. Human teachers can serve that process but only God teaches us interiorly, can reach inside our minds to assist processes of understanding and knowledge. It is not a kind of magic, though, even with infused knowledge or special gifts of understanding and knowing. We must learn and if something is to become really 'ours' then it must take the shape of our sensation, our perception, our understanding, our language.

Jesus is our righteousness, our peace, our wisdom, our justice. He is the one who can teach us all things, the only one who can do this. He does it, Aquinas says, through the questions he asks his disciples, the signs he gives them to illustrate and support his teaching, and the love he has for them. (We can only teach people we love.) Augustine speaks of Jesus on the cross as 'magister in cathedra', a professor on his chair. Here is the deepest love, the most compelling sign, and the most disturbing question posed by this Teacher as he enacts in his own flesh and blood the truths and values he spent his life teaching.

Moved with compassion for the needy crowd, Jesus began to teach them. The need of the neighbour takes precedence even over the time we might like to spend alone in prayer with God. Solomon is praised in the first reading because he asked for wisdom. In Jesus we believe we have been given the Wisdom of the Father. He is a light to guide us in our knowledge and understanding. He is a Teacher to lead us in our actions and decisions. He is a Doctor of truth and goodness, curing our ignorance and healing our weakness.

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