How much I rued these August days when I was a kid. The store circulars arrived in the mail — and they all screamed BACK TO SCHOOL!
Did they have to shout? Did they think we wouldn’t show up otherwise? It seemed to me that these store-owners just wanted to rub it in. They just wanted to cast a little gloom over my few remaining summer days.
I didn’t know Jesus at the time, and maybe during the summer I would have avoided him just because everybody called him the “Teacher.” It sounded too much like school.
Still, he must have been a great teacher, because so many people were eager to sit in his classroom — even in the dusty heat of the Holy Land — even if the classroom happened to be a hillside or lakeshore. He didn’t need to send store flyers to remind them to go BACK TO SCHOOL. They wanted to go, if he was going to be their teacher.
Jesus seemed, though, to understand the human resistance to learning new things. It’s not just kids who feel that way. I know people who avoid buying a new phone or exercise machine just because they don’t want to learn a new skill.
Jesus anticipated all this, and so he was careful never to present his sermons as lectures. Only once did he call his listeners to “Learn from me,” and even then he equated learning with wearing a yoke!
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Now, there’s a guy who understands what life is like for a kid! From September to June each year, we were yoked and burdened with homework, classwork, lab manuals, term papers, and art projects. Is it any wonder those store flyers filled us with dread?
But wait a minute. Jesus acknowledged the difficulties, but he urged his listeners to go ahead and “learn” anyway. He seems to imply that learning is worth the effort.
And I have to admit I found it rewarding, though I never would have admitted it at the time.
Come September, I too will be going BACK TO SCHOOL. I’ll find myself visiting classrooms full of kids preparing for First Communion and Confirmation. Now the roles are reversed and I’m the teacher.
My prayer is that I remember my own long-ago, late-August aversions to learning — and make sure that any yoke or burden I impose is easy and light. The gentle Master created me to be like himself. And then he showed me how to live a life like his. And then he commanded me to live it!
As if that weren’t enough, he also gave me the power to live it, through the sacraments.
If there’s anything my students “learn from me” this fall, I hope it’s that very lesson. We have come to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We share the very life of God, because he came to share our life in Jesus.