One very small phrase in today’s reading Mt 22:34-40 caught my eye, and I thought isn’t that a problem that has been increasing over the years. Today a “scholar of the law” asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment? The phrase “a scholar of the law.” At what point in man’s history did everything depend on scholarship? Scholarships is time intensive, it is demanding, it requires tutorship, time, and money. With all of the demands that are placed on scholarship, the numbers of scholars rapidly diminishes. The scholars of the law were few are far between. Scholarship is also inherited from teacher to student. Since when did understanding God become limited to a few chosen individuals? When did the LORD of heaven and earth exclude the masses? Jesus response did not take a doctorate in philosophy to understand. Love God, and love man. Simple. Even Jesus downgrades scholarship. When the LORD says “Love God” He says to do that with first heart, then soul, and lastly mind. The LORD places emotion before reason. It is desire that transcends knowledge. Jesus does not say Understand God, nor does He say Study God. The LORD dies not say interpret or categorize or define God. Jesus says Love God, and that is to have an emotional relationship with God. It is only after the emotional bond is formed that one can grow in Gods wisdom and begin to learn.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
With Jesus the relationship is transferred from teacher-student to parent-child. Unlike the teacher the parent’s first role is not to instruct, but to unselfishly love and provide for. It is only through love that lessons are taught, and unlike academics failure is not an option. What a different dynamic between the home and the classroom. Of course none of this argument eliminates the needs of education and scholars, it simply puts them in their place. The thing with academics is precisely that it often is not fueled with passion, its mission is often the sustained livelihood of the scholar. Neither the subject nor the student are the primary benefactor, and I agree that is a harsh statement. Life though is harsh. Parents protect children from life’s harsh realities. They also help them navigate them. That is the reality of the bond between parent and child. I think of Jesus demand not to be called Rabi. Rabi means teacher. Jesus is Gods Son, and He often refers to us as children. Before anyone gets into a rage, I do not consider scholarship to be utter nonsense. I can see its value, and I immediately turn to Saint Thomas Aquinas. I also turn to the more recent pope Benedict XVI. Scholars that enriched the lives of many. But then again look at some that have not taken the scholarly approach, the little flower Saint Theresa. Was Catherine of Sienna a scholar? Was Saint Francis or his original Friars? What of Saint John Vianney? I am sure there are more that succeeded through love while failing at the textbook. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. First heart, then soul, and finally mind. Order counts.
Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time