Pope Benedict pointed out something about the second chapter of Matthew that I had never considered. Herod calls together the scribes and chief priests to find out where they were expecting the Messiah to be born. After telling him, they do nothing. We have no recorded account of the scholars going to worship the Christ Child. Isn’t that rather odd? They spent their lives reading the Scriptures, and then when something occurs that should spur them to action, they stay put. It seems they aren’t even curious.
“That Herod would draw the obvious conclusion is understandable. Yet it is remarkable that his Scripture experts do not feel prompted to take any practical steps as a result. Does this, perhaps, furnish us with the image of a theology that exhausts itself in academic disputes?” (Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, 105)
One of the talks I’ve given as part of a women’s retreat is the importance of embracing the “intellectual apostolate,” especially given the times in which we’re living. There is a dire need for a well-instructed laity, equipped to speak to friends and family about the Truth. We aren’t all called to dwell in the academies, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t all called to feed our minds beyond our eighth-grade education in the Faith.
But these scribes and priests should be reminders to those of us who do dwell in the academies. We seek the Truth – not just in books, but in the streets as well. Truth exists in the Word, but it also exists in the flesh. If we, as academics, aren’t on our knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament, if we aren’t in the streets preaching the Gospel, our academic pursuits are futile.