May 2, 2014
Happy Easter to you all. May the joy of the resurrection illuminate your lives during this season of hope. One of my favorite Easter stories is the road to Emmaus. It is the story of two disciples who, out of fear and confusion, leave Jerusalem following the suffering and death of Christ but have a radical encounter with the resurrection along the way. In this encounter, we see a glimpse of one of the most important parts of education: the joy of learning.
Principally, learning refers to the movement from a state of not knowing to a state of knowing. Learning represents a natural good in the sense that we have a natural desire for knowledge that learning fulfills. However, all learning takes on great spiritual significance in light of our being in the image of God. Learning as a movement from unknowing to knowing presents the learner with an opportunity to encounter truth (truth is that which conforms the mind to reality). The joy of learning consists in the realization that truth is a Person—the joy of encountering Christ as the model, means, and goal of education.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus had a direct experience of the joy of learning. After conversing with the risen Lord they exclaim, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” We can reasonably assume that the disciples were familiar with the Scriptures prior to their encounter. What, then, did they learn that had such an effect on them? They came to know Christ Himself. He is the key to unlocking the Scriptures. He makes all things new. Encountering the person of Christ caused these disciples to have a new experience of Scripture and filled them with wonderment and joy. Moreover, they were transformed by what they learned.
What can we learn about the joy of learning from the Emmaus story? The joy of learning is rooted in our encounter with the person of Christ. Since he is truth incarnate, all learning presents an opportunity to better know and encounter Christ (in effect, to see the world through new eyes). The Emmaus story also reveals how to seek the joy of learning, even amidst the ordinary and mundane. The disciples longed for a savior. This is why they were filled with such fear and confusion at the beginning of the story. They recognized their great need for God. They responded to this need by inviting Christ to walk with them. Whenever Christ made it seem like he was going to move on, the disciples pleaded with Him to stay. What finally opened their eyes to the presence of Christ was the breaking of bread, the Eucharist. With their minds open, hearts burning, and spirit nourished the disciples had a significant experience of gratitude that caused them to set out at once back to Jerusalem as new creations, being transformed in Christ.
There are four ingredients for becoming a joyful learner that we find in the Emmaus story: humility to recognize the great need we have (how far off we are from a state of knowing), prayer in response to our need (the willingness to ask Christ to walk with us as the source of all learning), sacramental grace (the grace that disposes us to recognize Christ in all things), and finally gratitude (the experience of wonderment and joy that we then share with others). Thank you for joining me on these reflections this semester. May our encounter of the resurrected Lord this Easter season increase and bring to fulfillment our desire to become greater primary educators.
Yours in Christ,