Any university professor will present his lecture and move ahead with the lesson plan for the semester according to the program, curriculum or syllabus he must impart to his students (disciples) during the scholastic year. An elementary school teacher, on the other hand, has to repeat the same lessons multiple times before he can move on to a different subject because his restless pupils are easily distracted during his class.
When he began the education of his disciples, Jesus the Teacher knew that each one of them had many distractions in their lives: providing for their families, the political situation of their country, their spiritual life, the future of the chosen people, death, salvation or eternal condemnation, etc. The same lesson would need to be repeated many times and in many different ways and using convincing didactic methods during the next three years in order to reach a moderate understanding. “With many such parables he spoke with the word to them, as they were able to hear it, he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” (Mark 4:33-34)
How many repetitions will we, who are the present-day disciples, need from the first disciples in order to learn the lesson and pass it on to the next generation of students who are more and more distracted in the school of life?
To reach university-level studies requires a process of approximately 13 years. To form oneself into a disciple of Jesus requires a lifetime. The most attentive students advance quickly. The rest of us succumb to multiple distractions, and we will need to repeat our lessons innumerable times.
Jesus, like a good pedagogue, respects each student’s learning process and personally accompanies us until our intelligence discovers the truth and our will embraces it with pleasure.
The attentive disciples know that the master teaches what he lives, and that is his strongest and most eloquent lesson. These are the ones learned from the master, that we should not worry about our daily food or how we will cloth ourselves, for if the heavenly Father feeds the birds of the sky and dresses the lilies of the fields, he will surely feed and dress his children (Matthew 6:26); and that the dead should bury the dead (Luke 9:60); and that “everything is possible to one who has faith” (Mark 9:23); and that only those who are like children will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14); and that Jesus will not lose anyone that the Father has given him (John 6:39).
As distracted students, we waste a lot of energy trying to learn because our attention is drawn to mundane worries and fears, to uncertainty, impurity, mistrust, obligations, personal image, or simply doing what everyone else is doing, etc.
As it’s done with elementary school children, the patient Teacher repeats the lesson one more time because he loves each student personally; because he knows what is going on in their lives and the challenges they face; because he believes that at some point, finally, his students’ souls will light up as understanding dawns, and they will exclaim with wide smiles that at last they finally understand and have learned the lesson.
From that moment on, and with sorrow for time lost, we will not permit a single word or lesson of the teacher to fall into the void, we will follow his instructions faithfully so that the greatness and wisdom of his life and example will grow before our eyes.
From that moment on we will want to convince the other students of the importance of paying attention to the Teacher, of the enormous benefits it will bring to their lives, of the incomparable service it will provide to their families, society and communities of faith and the joy it will bestow as it frees them from error and ignorance, strengthening unity and enjoying that much-longed-for peace in our insatiable hearts.
Will our testimony help others to discover the urgency of directing all of their attention to the sublime Professor? Without a doubt, some other student will be convinced if he or she sees the results of joy, freedom and the integrity in our lives. The rest of the students will continue to be distracted by the whirlwind of events in our world; but the patient, tireless and persevering Teacher will continue drawing near to each one of them, offering to repeat the lesson as if it were the first time.
Mary was most attentive to the teaching of the Master and broke into joyful song at the marvels she discovered.
Thank you again for your patience, Jesus Teacher! May a portion of your wisdom pass from us to the next generation of your disciples!
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - November 2017
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx