I invite you to try a reflective exercise that was shared with us on a retreat this summer facilitated by Sr. Cheryl Rose, HM. Centered on the theme of contemplative prayer, her conferences were beautiful reflections on experiencing the presence of God in various facets of our lives. One particular image she offered was that of meeting Jesus, the Teacher, in different “classrooms.”
Any place where we find ourselves can become a classroom: a situation in which we are powerless, a work setting that challenges us, a significant relationship that needs attention, to name a few. Sr. Cheryl then suggested the titles of possible classes that Jesus may be inviting us to enter: Beginning Suffering, Advanced Waiting, Honors Letting Go, Trust 101, Endurance 201, Paschal Mystery (with lab), and the list goes on. With this introduction we were then directed to reflect on which class(es) we thought we were currently taking, with her assurance that we would not find ourselves in a course that we were not ready for – God always sees to that!
It may be that we’re tempted to look for courses that promise miracles for the future when what the Teacher desires is our living in the present and diving into the depths. We can beg the Teacher to let us “drop” a course when that is exactly the course we need. Misjudging our readiness for further study, we can beg the Teacher for permission to take an “extra” course that, in the Teacher’s eyes, is beyond our strength and will only serve to frustrate our best intentions. Discovering which courses the Teacher has chosen for us at any point in our lives can bring forth a deeper awareness of the growth we need to make.
Once we’ve identified the course(s), then the work of being a student begins. Whether it’s Patience 101 or Spiritual Delight, paying attention is key for learning to take place. Paying attention requires commitment to developing a listening spirit. How often do we ask God to answer our prayers our way without making any effort to listen and discern what the Teacher might be offering us instead?
Distractions hinder a student from effective learning. Do we find ways to limit both the exterior and interior noise of our everyday lives? Times of silence are necessary for growth in understanding the essence of the lessons the Teacher provides. Do we allow ourselves to be contemplative?
A student is successful when she allows herself to be taught, when she opens her heart and mind to the words and example of the Teacher. Letting go, surrendering her life to the Teacher she trusts leads to personal peace as well as the ability to reverence all the other students whom she meets. Do we ask the Teacher to guide us in this direction?
I hope you can name the courses our Teacher has selected just for you at this time in your life. May you grow wise as you approach all the lessons as a humble student at the feet of Jesus.