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
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.