Fr. Gerard D’Souza, OCSO
14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.’ What are these things? Jesus is not speaking about science, or math or even poetry, art, literature. The wise and the learned excel in them. The things Jesus is referring to is really one major thing – that Jesus comes from God and is God. This, he tells us, is something little ones get and the wise and the learned do not.
The Greek word for wise here means someone who is skilled and the Greek for learned means literally someone who puts things together. The wise and the learned here are those skilled in putting things together. Isn’t that what comprehension is about – putting ideas together? There is a downside to this cleverness. There are persons who are skilled in handling words and can put things together in a very clever fashion and yet they have no real knowledge of what they are talking about. They are word smiths. We speak of those who talk a good game. I remember one of our Nigerian brothers who lived with us for a while describe someone as ‘He cooks well with his mouth’ This is especially true in spiritual things. If we have concepts and we know syntax, we can string together beautiful treatises on God without knowing Him or loving Him. Handling holy words becomes a game for us. They do not pierce our hearts and bring us to our knees. And this can happen to all of us. All of us understand the words of the Creed for instance but does that change our lives?
Now the little ones the Gospel refers to is an interesting word in Greek. The Greek literally means those without words. Infants are truly without words, they cannot express themselves. They depend totally on their parents especially the mother to intuit their needs. They cannot pretend they do not need others. Their very lives depend on the love and care of others. Suddenly we realize why Jesus exults and praises the Father – because He is that infant. He too is without His own word. He is the Word of the Father. He will always remain the Word of the Father forever. He does not stand on His own ground. Jesus is always dependent on His Father for everything. He is the Word of Someone else. The beautiful thing is Jesus is not resentful nor embarrassed nor ashamed of being so utterly dependent on the Father. In fact, He exults in this. He exults as only someone can who is truly in love without a nagging suspicion or distrust. Infants are like this – they have not developed a shell, they are raw – they need love, claim it without any sense of guilt or shame. It is only later that they learn to hide this rawness with all the defenses and masks we all use. Even worse, we slowly begin to believe that we can be autonomous human beings who do not even need God even as we are totally dependent on Him for every breath we take, for our every heartbeat.
Consider our rather childish idea of human maturity. It is usually means autonomy. The more rugged an individualist we are, the greater we are. Maturity means becomes independent of every one. So we are ashamed or embarrassed at the slightest sign of being dependent on anyone even God. But true maturity is to acknowledge our total dependence on God. To be an adult is to know we are dependent on God. And this is something the humble know. I say the humble because you do not need an IQ that is below 40 to get it. There are brilliant people who have the minds of geniuses and the humility of little children. I remember when Pope Benedict XVI was elected. The German cardinal Joachim Meisner was weeping copious tears of joy at the election of his country man and when asked by a reporter described Josef Ratzinger as a man who is as intelligent as 12 university professors and he meant 12 German university professors and yet the Pope was also as pious and devout as a child making his First Communion. Whether you are brilliant or not brilliant, there is no way you can know God except by humbling accepting Jesus as Divine.
Only the infants, those with no word of their but who depend on the Word alone can know this. Only the humble can truly know Jesus and see the Father. Only the humble do not put Him to the test but take Him at his Word. Only the humble are not resentful that He says He is the only Way and asks them to have faith in Him. Only the humble are content to be utterly dependent on God. My brothers and sisters let us pray that we too find ourselves in the company of such little ones.