I went to a store to purchase a few small items. When I went to check out, the total came to ten-dollars and eighteen-cents. I gave the cashier twenty-one dollars. The cashier took the money, but looking a little confused, started to fumble through the cash drawer in the register. It was obvious that the cashier didn’t know what to do, so I said, “You owe me ten-dollars and eighty-two cents.” The cashier then counted out the correct change, handed it to me and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
In the Gospel of John (12:20-33), Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow Me.” And in his Letter to the Hebrews (5:7-9), St.Paul tells us, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered.”
Everyone who chooses to serve our Lord and dedicates their life to following the will of God will ultimately be led along their own unique path in life. But I ask you to meditate on this one simple fact for a moment. Our God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. “The Child grew and became strong” (Luke 2:40) “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature.” (Luke 2:52) And He learned obedience. In every moment of our lives, we are exposed to new information. We acquire knowledge simply by being alive. Even our Lord and Savior, Jesus, learned new information during His earthly life. Learning is a process of life. Each and every one of us has many duties and responsibilities in life, but chief among them is the acquisition of new information. We are here to learn.
I am not criticizing that cashier for the apparent lack of mathematical skills, but that experience reminded me that our learning process doesn’t end simply because we have completed the process of our formal education. But sometimes we need a little nudge to redirect us along our own process of learning.
I recently saw a short documentary titled, “Round Trip.” Among the people interviewed in that documentary was a man by the name of Alan Rogers. Alan told the story of the time he was hospitalized for a medical condition, and while he was being treated in the hospital, his heart failed. He said that his spirit left his body and he was lifted up. Instantly he felt incredible warmth, comfort and peace. After describing what this wonderful experience was like, he said that he spoke to the beings who had met him there. He told them, “No way am I going back. No way! I’m here and I’m going to stay.” He said that they responded by saying, “You have to go back. You have not fulfilled your duties and responsibilities.” He said, “I thought about it and there were certain things that I promised to do when I was a child to help make this a better world. And I said to them, ‘Okay I will go back.’”He said that he then woke up and saw the doctor standing over him with those “electric paddles”.
He went on to say that, at the time, he was working as an account executive for a company that made television commercials. He said that the very next day he called his boss and said, “I quit! I can’t waste any more of my time making television commercials. That’s not why I’m here. That’s not why I have been trained the way I have been. I have to do something that is more of a social value.” He said that he then started an organization called, “The Gifted Children Research Institute.” He said that he did this so that he could “Help train gifted children and thereby help contribute to society.”
There are those who will scoff at the idea of a near death experience, but I personally like what Father Dick Sparks had to say about the subject. He said, “Personally I am humbled by the near death phenomenon; and I think the Church is as well. The Catholic Church has not made any official pronouncement; but we are pretty quick to condemn things that we think are shady or a hoax. But this one we stand respectful of.” (Fr. Dick Sparks C.S.P., Moral Theologian, Author of “Contemporary Christian Morality”)
No matter what our age may be, I think we all realize just how fragile our mortal bodies are and we all recognize the brevity of this earthly life. Whether it be an illness, an accident, a tragedy, or any number of countless ways, some day our task will be completed here on earth and we will be called home. But in the meantime, we are here to learn.
When it comes to learning, have you ever felt like you are overloading your brain with useless information? Doctor Ben Carson, the emeritus professor of neurosurgery at John Hopkins School of Medicine said, “First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over.
Secondly, not only can we not overload our brain, we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use a saying that the brain acquires everything that we encounter.” (Think Big, Dr. Ben Carson, page 206)
We live at a time in which we are exposed to endless bits of information via the internet, books, movies, radio and television. Knowing that our brain retains everything that we encounter, I think we need to be a little careful and more selective in what kind of information we are allowing ourselves to be exposed to. For example, the entertainment media contains far too much material containing sex, violence and horror.
Whether it is something minor like suddenly realizing that you need to learn the mathematical skills necessary to make simple financial transactions, or something major like a near death experience that shakes you into realizing that your path in life needs a new direction, all of life is a learning experience. And chief among the knowledge that we should be seeking is the will of our Heavenly Father for us and for our life. It is easy to discern the will of our Heavenly Father because it will always include love and compassion for our fellow man. God will guide us in our learning process if we simply follow His Son, Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus frequently went off by Himself to pray to His Heavenly Father. We need to follow His example and do likewise.