Sunday Sermon for July 9, 2017, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Zec 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30
In the Gospel reading today Jesus praises His Father in Heaven because what He has hidden from the wise and the learned, He has revealed to the little ones. While this makes the point, the Greek actually says that Jesus gave thanks to His Father because what He has hidden from the wise and the intelligent people He has revealed to infants. This sounds demeaning to us, especially coming from a society where education has been so important and the thought of calling someone an infant is an insult.
However, we have to see things from a different perspective. First of all, we have to hear what Jesus says about Himself: He is meek and humble of heart. I do not think anyone would suggest that Jesus was neither wise nor intelligent, so it is not the qualities of wisdom and intelligence that are the problem. One of the difficulties for people of great intelligence is pride; interestingly, the Saints tell us that the sure sign of humility is patience (meekness is the virtue opposite of anger). So, humility and meekness actually work together in this way: one who is truly humble will also be meek, even to the point of heroic patience.
If we just consider our own era we can see another pitfall wise and intelligent people can fall into. The many advances in science and technology, as well as knowledge itself have benefited all of us in many ways. Of course, there are some things that have been very bad for individuals and society, but I want to focus just on the positive side for now. As people learn how things in nature can be explained scientifically, there is a temptation to assume that we no longer need God. In fact, because we can understand something, we have made the jump to the idea that God has no part in it.
It is helpful to know how things in nature work: the weather, diseases, plagues, disasters, etc. There was a time when nature was thought to be controlled by God. Now we think that it is all controlled by “natural forces” and other elements that we can grasp with our minds. However, to suggest that God did not make these “natural forces” is where we have fallen into error. Somehow we have come to the point where we think everything can be explained only by natural causes.
From a scientific point of view, many things can be explained naturally, but that does not mean there is not something (Someone) supernatural Who created nature. Some very intelligent people who can understand extremely difficult issues often fail to look beyond what they can grasp. God cannot be grasped by our minds or our senses, so it is easy to ignore Him. In making everything purely natural, with no greater reference, we can only conclude that we are self-dependent. We cannot even call ourselves creatures because we believe we were not created by a Creator, but instead, we are just one more link in a chain of natural progression that goes back to the beginning. Of course, we ignore the fact that Someone had to cause the beginning.
Infants, on the other hand, are completely dependent; they are simple, meek and humble. It seems that they “understand” intuitively that there is someone greater upon whom they must depend. Little children, as they begin to develop their understanding and knowledge, have an innate faith in God. For some reason, as we become more “wise and learned” we sometimes wander away from faith. We find ourselves needing no one; we become selfish, arrogant, and angry.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we are in the spirit only if the Spirit of God dwells in us. If we consider only what is able to be perceived by the senses, then we are going to reject the spiritual. If we convince ourselves, for instance, that there is not a spiritual soul in the human person, i.e., life is just a natural result of our evolutionary journey, then we cannot have the Spirit of God because we are rejecting our own spirit where God dwells. If we fail to look deeper what is sensibly perceptible, that is, the soul, then we cannot have the Spirit of Christ.
It is precisely this Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, given to lead us into all truth, Who will make us like Jesus, Who is the Truth: wise and intelligent, yet simple, meek and humble. Jesus invites us to come to Him and learn from Him; the fullness of truth is not something we can obtain on our own. Pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we can be led into all truth and be like Jesus, our King: meek and humble of heart.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.