20 July 2016
When we’re younger, it’s not hard to tell who our teachers are: They’re the people who are older than us. But when we get older, it’s not as easy to tell who our teachers are. And that’s because some of our teachers end up being younger than we are.
You know, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say to me: “I’ve never met a priest as young as you.” That can throw people off sometimes, because we usually think of a priest as a “wisdom” figure, or an experienced “teacher,” or a “wise old man.” And there’s definitely some truth in that. But the idea of a younger priest coming along is a good challenge to accept the idea that God works in ways we don’t normally expect.
Take Jeremiah, for example; a young man, inexperienced, with no real standing in the community. And yet, he’s the chosen teacher and “drill sergeant” sent to get Israel in shape. Or take Jesus himself as an example. In Scripture today, we see him sitting down—and that’s significant because that’s the position of a teacher. In the “old days,” the teacher sat, while the student stood up.
And yet, Jesus is only in his early thirties; he doesn’t match the image of “the wise old man,” or “the elder of the community,” but there he is being a teacher to his elders. Sometimes it’s easy to tell who our teachers are; and sometimes it’s not—especially when the teacher is younger.
Some of our most popular Saints were also quite young: St. Therese of Lisieux was only 24 when she died; St. Aloysius Gonzaga was also in his early 20s. Saint Maria Goretti was in her teens. Even Saint Francis of Assisi was only in his early 40s when he died. None of them match the image of a “wise old man,” or a “wise old woman.”
But they all have mountains of wisdom to share with us—because God often works in ways (and in people) we don’t expect. Who might God be trying to put in your life as a teacher, as a guide?