Thought for the Week

Mgr Kieran Heskin

Parish Priest, Sacred Heart Parish, Ilkley

Rembrandt’s Aristotle is a painting in which the great Greek philosopher and teacher stands in his study. His lips are pursed in thought as he weighs in his mind the advantages of a spiritual over a materialistic way of life. His right hand, the hand of favour, is resting on a bust of Homer. His left hand, the hand of disfavour, is touching a splendid gold chain that was given to him by his pupil, the conqueror, Alexander the Great. His right hand is in the light; his left hand is in darkness. His right hand is raised higher than his left hand and his head is inclined slightly in the direction of Homer. He clearly favours the values of the poet over those of the conqueror: in his mind spiritual values outweigh materialistic ones.

The teaching profession, of which Aristotle is an illustrious representative, is a very old and sacred profession. It played an important role not only in the world’s oldest cultures: in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. It also played an important part in that culture that gave us the Bible.

Jesus himself was a rabbi, a teacher, who taught with authority and who had great respect for his own teaching. For example, he said to his contemporaries: “I am the light of the world …” adding that “anyone who listens to these words of mine is like someone who builds a house on rock …; anyone who fails to listen to my words is like someone who builds their house on sand”.

He also wanted his followers to have that same inspirational role in society that he had. He showed this when he said to them: “You are to be the salt of the earth, you [too] are to be the light of the world”.

At this time of year, the “Aristotles of today”, our teachers, return to their classrooms to continue one of the most sacred of all functions: that of helping young minds to grow “in wisdom and understanding”.

May they be blessed in their work and may they receive the support that they need from state and church, from parents and above all from their pupils.