Thursday of the 9th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
2 Timothy 2:8-15  +  Mark 12:28-34
June 2, 2016

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.” [Psalm 25:5]

Yesterday I was tempted to continue the homily, about the “Songs of Ascents”, with a quotation from C. S. Lewis.  But the quote in question—which comes from his book titled Reflections on the Psalms—also relates well to today’s Responsorial Psalm, so consider this quote about the art of teaching:

“It often happens that two schoolboys can solve difficulties in their work for one another better than the master can.  When you took the problem to a master, as we all remember, he was very likely to explain what you understood already, to add a great deal of information which you didn’t want, and say nothing at all about the thing that was puzzling you.

“I have watched this from both sides of the net; for when, as a teacher myself, I have tried to answer questions brought me by pupils, I have sometimes, after a minute, seen that expression settle down on their faces which assured me that they were suffering exactly the same frustration which I had suffered from my own teachers.

“The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less.  The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met.  The expert met it so long ago that he has forgotten.  He sees the whole subject, by now, in such a different light that he cannot conceive what is really troubling the pupil; he sees a dozen other difficulties which ought to be troubling him but aren’t.”

One of Lewis’ points is the descent that the teacher is required to make in order to speak at the student’s level, in order to raise the student’s comprehension and understanding.  St. Augustine of Hippo made this point in the passage from his exposition of the “songs of ascent”, using the image of “Jacob’s ladder”, in which those who descend are descending into to assist those at the bottom upwards.  In today’s Responsorial, the imagery of teaching is used three times, and St. Augustine here also speaks to what theology calls “divine condescension”:

‘Make your ways known to me, Lord, and train me in your paths.’  They are not the wide paths that lead many to perdition; train me in your narrow ways that are known to few.[1]

‘Guide me in your truth’, let me shun errors, ‘and teach me’, for of myself I know nothing but falsehood; ‘for you, O God, are my salvation, and I have been waiting for you all day long.’  Turned out of paradise by you, and wandering to a far-off country, I cannot return by my own strength unless you come to meet me in my wandering, for my return has been waiting upon your mercy throughout the whole stretch of earthly time.

‘The Lord is gracious and upright’:  gracious, because He has shown such mercy to sinners and the ungodly as to forgive them all their earlier sins; but upright too, because after exercising mercy by inviting and forgiving, and conferring grace independently of any merits, He will look for properly meritorious acts at the Last Judgment.”

‘He will guide the meek in judgment’.  He will guide the meek, and at the time of judgment will not frighten those who follow His will, and do not stand out against Him by preferring their own.  ‘He will teach His ways to the gentle’.  He will teach His ways not to those who want to run on ahead, as if they could rule themselves better than He can, but to those who do not strut about with their heads in the air, or dig in their heels, when He easy yoke and light burden are set upon them.”[2]

[1] See Matthew 7:13-14.
[2] See Matthew 11:30.