Daily Reflection
December 23rd, 2004
Tom Purcell
Accounting Department
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Today’s readings contain two very important points for me – John the prophet is coming to make ready the way for the Lord, and the Lord desires to be in a dialogue with us. 

The Malachi excerpt and the gospel clearly reinforce each other.  The messenger is coming to prepare the way for the Lord.  And John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, is that messenger.  It took a bout of muteness for Zechariah to accept it, but he did, and when he submitted to God’s will, his power of speech was restored.  We have heard the Christmas message so many times that it is easy to find this meaning.

The second point, though, is less easily seen.  Perhaps it is because I am an educator, but I see a strong sense of call to dialogue in the responsorial verses.  Notice the action language – “make known,” “teach,” “guide,” “show,” and “instruction” all are words that denote two-way communication.  These are interactions, not dictations.  I was curious so I looked in Exodus for the language used with the Ten Commandments – Ch. 20, v. 1 says God “delivered” the commandments, which sounds much more single directional. 

So what to make of these observation?  The teacher has much more experience than the student, and has to adapt to different students with different learning styles and needs, changing the medium of delivery but not the fundamental message.  The teacher has much deeper knowledge and understanding of the area, and so can see the nuances that students initially miss.  The teacher gives freely of self to help the student learn.

And what of the student?  The student needs to work at learning, to be willing to be guided, to observe while being shown the way, to recognize the truth when the teacher unveils it, and to accept the truth when it becomes clear.  Students must admit they need to learn, that their knowledge is limited.  Since students have different capacities for knowing, a student will only take something from the process if effort is put forth, and the more effort is made, the more can be learned about the truth.   It could be argued that less is expected of those students with limited endowments than from those with extensive abilities or, in other words, that everyone is expected to work to the best of their unique gifts. 

For obvious reasons, Jesus has been called the greatest teacher.  One of my colleagues has been known to classify someone as a “great” student because that person put in the effort, made mistakes and learned from them, kept trying to become better, recognized their limitations and tried to get the most from their abilities, learned more than their innate ability might indicate they could.  Using these measures, and with Jesus as our teacher, perhaps we should periodically ask ourselves – “What kind of student am I?”

My prayer for today is that I can be a better student of Jesus, the best teacher.

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