The danger of “I KNOW” and the difficulty and the value of agreeing – VIDEO & TEXT

Plato and Aristotle walking and disputing. Detail from Raphael's The School of Athens – 1509–1511.
Plato and Aristotle walking and disputing. Detail from Raphael’s The School of Athens – 1509–1511.

Mid-week Reflection – (Matthew 18:19-20) [12th August 2020]

We are in the week in which the festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary appears on the calendar of the Church of England, for the 15th of August. We know very well how much has been written about the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in the celebration of our faith, in our creed. We know from history how many theological struggles have taken place, how many spiritual writings have been made available to us so as not to fall into error. But I don’t want to talk about it now, because that’s not the subject of our reflection. Maybe we will have the opportunity to talk about this topic as well. Now I want to stop at the danger hidden in the statement “I know” which excludes any other opinion and the difficulty of reaching an agreement and its value to us.

Years ago, I was preparing for the festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15. The vicar was not at home for health reasons. He asked me to prepare, together with his team, the festival for his community, in his absence. I like to be a team player, that’s why I invited all the members of the vicar’s team to put ideas together. The team was happy with the suggestions of the different members and we all went home satisfied, ready for work. But the miracle lasted only a few hours.

On the same day I received a message from the children and families worker in which she explains to me that she does not want to use the proposed readings for our celebration because she “knows” that it is dangerous for children to fall into error. She did not explain to me how this could happen, but she pointed out that she “knows” that it is so, so she will use other texts. Short after, another member of the team, a clergyman this time, of whose help I was sure, wrote to me that he would be happy that he would not be around that day, because he has a different “opinion” about the festival than the Church has. I was totally upset, because, at the general meeting, both this people came up with very strong ideas about how to prepare the festival. And we were happy to use their ideas. But after a while they told me that they “know” differently, without giving any more explanations. I had to contact the others and to explain the situation and then we organized the festival, without the two important people. It wasn’t the same. We felt a little poorer, but we had no choice.

In the end, it wasn’t that bad, just that something was missing. But, in the wider world, that phrase “I know,” without accepting discussion or explaining why, killed and still kills many people. That’s why the phrase “I know” is so dangerous. It’s about that exclusive “I know” and only me.

The fragment chosen as the basis for our reflection is short. Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:19-20). It may seem simple, but it is really difficult.

To agree on a thing, ideas, actions means to be successful in what we propose, together. This requires sincerity, respect and openness to others. We have to be aware that not only you or I are the holder of the ultimate truth and of total knowledge. For this we must explain what we know and listen to what others know. It is always useful.

Jesus knows what he is saying to his disciples. Agreeing on something is the first and sure step to achieving a goal. Jesus knows how hard it is for us to agree on something. And this is not because we cannot, but because arrogance prevents us. It’s about that exclusive “I know” that divides, destroys and, not infrequently, kills. To understand this, we do not need to look too deep back into history. Let’s look around us.

And although it is so difficult to agree on something, Jesus clearly explains: “if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you”. This is the value of agreeing on something: achieving what we set out to do.

(Revd. Bernard Noghiu, Southend on Sea, 11th August 2020)

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