Teaching us gradually – an extract from one of my books

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In The Creed in Slow Motion, Ronald Knox points out that “if it was an astonishing thing that our Lord should die, equally it was an astonishing thing that he should stay dead”.[1] We take it for granted that he stayed dead for three days but it is certainly not an event that could possibly have been anticipated, which is why Knox writes that every “second during which he stayed dead, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday morning was a kind of miracle; a much more remarkable miracle really than his Resurrection”.[2] He gives various reasons why Jesus was buried for three days, but his final explanation is that “Our Lord wanted [the disciples] to learn to wait; waiting is good for all of us”.[3] Those three days matter. They were part of God’s plan. God knows that we need time to take in his lessons, which takes us back to Jesus at the age of twelve and takes us back to St Aelred’s commentary on Luke’s account as well. St Aelred points out that in the Temple Jesus “began to unfold the secrets of heaven to those who were learned in the scriptures, for therein lies the priceless treasure of the promise of God’s mercy. But he did not open that treasure house to them all at once, but gradually”.[4] We might want our children to become saints immediately but it doesn’t work like that. There is a process to be gone through. There are temptations and trials to be faced, and temptations and trials to be overcome. We know full well that our children have to grow up physically, but we sometimes forget that spiritual maturity takes time to develop too. And because it takes us time to get where God wants us to be, he adapts his teaching to suit our needs: “At first He listened to them and asked them questions, and then He addressed them openly,” St Aelred tells us. He teaches us gradually.

[1] Ronald Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2009), 100.

[2] Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion, 101.

[3] Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion, 103.

[4] St Aelred, On Jesus at Twelve Years Old, 30.

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