What Wisdom and Learning Cannot See
The Ignatian approach to understanding the world values attention to context, and I truly appreciate that. Nothing exists in a vacuum; there’s always at least one “who,” at least one “why.”
The Jesuit Institute’s document Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach, describes the importance of context in this way:
We must know as much as we can about the actual context within which teaching and learning take place. As teachers, therefore, we need to understand the world of the student, including the ways in which family, friends, peers, youth culture and mores as well as social pressures, school life, politics, economics, religion, media, art, music, and other realities impact that world and affect the student for better or worse.
So, my question is this: what is my context for this Advent season? And what might those who read this reflection be carrying with them as they begin their journey into this holy time?
As of this writing, in early October, I can’t know. The news can sometimes seem to bring a fresh disaster every day, and certainly, each person’s path has its own moments of trial, setback, hopelessness, or grief. Those burdens matter. They affect our movement in the world, and they have an impact on whether, in our prayers, we can feel God’s loving presence.
When I learn about miscarriages of justice, or natural disasters, or school shootings, or terrorist attacks, I have a habit of trying to read everything I can on the subject, as though facts and perspectives can ease my heartache. They can’t, of course.
I do think that kind of study is worth doing—ours is a faith always in search of greater justice for all God’s beloved children—but today’s Gospel is a great reminder that not everything is accessible through wisdom and learning. In some contexts, turning to God with the pain and confusion of a child may be the best way forward.
There is no researching God’s revelation. He provides it in His time, and in His way. It’s so hard to be patient! But what if sitting with that impatience is a way of letting ourselves be childlike? What if allowing that discomfort actually invites God nearer?
Jen Dotsey is a member of the Community Ministry, English and Theology Departments at Seattle Prep.