The Foolishness of Me

Joining an advanced-level language class when studying abroad is very different than joining an “advanced”-level language class in the States. In the States, one has the luxury of studying amongst similarly handicapped fellow Americans in all their monolingual and mispronounced glory. In Italy, at an “American” university that is really more an international one, the situation is a little different.

For one thing, half the class will be non-Americans (French, Russians, Dominican Republicans, Dominican Democrats).

For another thing, the teacher will actually be Italian and will not give un culo di un topo whether you know the language or not. They’re getting paid to show up and talk in Italian to you.

In other words, from 3:00-4:15 today I felt like an absolute imbecile. That is to say, I now know that I do not know Italian. A week of my cocky chatting with Romans – hand gestures and all – has turned to shame as I realize that they probably had no idea what I was saying.

So it was very comforting to open up today’s Mass readings and to hear from Paul: If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise.  *victory dance*

Today’s sentiments of intellectual smallness brought me to a very simple understanding of this scripture. Normally this scripture would spur me to preach about the Metaphysics of Paradox and how God has Confounded the World with the Deep Mysteries of His Inner Life… but today by God’s grace I chanced upon a much more gentle knowledge of what it means.

If I went to an Italian class with the attitude that I know all there is to know about the language, I wouldn’t be able to learn anything. The fact that I know I am not proficient in the language opens my mind to be taught.

Similarly, Christ desires us to realize our own foolishness because it makes us vulnerable.  It sets us at the feet of the True Rabbi. It is not to wound us with humiliation, but to open us to healing. Christ desires intimacy with us. By unveiling our foolishness, he places us at his feet – that is, he places us near him, in a position of reception. That is all. There is no need for grand mountains of theological esotericism (although that may come later); in the end there is only Mary at the feet of Jesus, John leaning on the breast of Jesus, Paul simply contemplating Jesus. Simple.


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