Monday, July 04, 2011

14th Sunday - homily

One of our students at the Newman Center has told her story publicly about how she went from, in the language of today’s Gospel (Matt 11:25-30), one of “the wise and the learned” to one of the “little ones”. Raised Catholic and very intelligent (as so many of our GW students are), she was an ardent atheist until just before she came to college. She vehemently opposed any doctrine or authority of the Church and was quite arrogant in the way she spoke to her parents or teachers about it. In looking back at all of that, she says she was a “big jerk”. She had a change of mind and heart. She went from thinking that she could figure everything out by herself, trusting her own judgment over that of her parents and Church, and that she could do this (life) all on her own to realizing that she didn’t know everything, trusting the authority of the Church, and that she couldn’t do this on her own. Her change was not just a change of mind. Her change was also and mainly of the heart. She went from pride and arrogance to humility and docility.

By the way, it’s not like she went from wise to unwise. Being a little one doesn’t mean we check our intelligence at the Church doors or that we blindly follow the Church’s teachings. Our Catholic faith is the most reasonable faith in the world! Some of the most intelligent people who have ever lived have been among the “little ones”. With this young woman, she now uses her keen mind to articulate the teachings and thinking of the Church in a profound way. It is so beautiful so see!

We might be confused by the Lord’s language in today’s Gospel: “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”. God reveals Himself and His mysteries to all people. What, then, hides the mysteries and things of God from the wise and learned? We have to first identify who the wise and learned are. This doesn’t just mean those who are intelligent just like “the rich” referred to in the Gospel don’t just mean those who have wealth. The wise and the learned are those who have become so full of themselves that they think that they know better than anyone, including God. They trust in their own judgment only. (By the way, “the rich” in the Gospel refers to all those who make money their god.) So, what hides the mysteries and things of God from the wise and learned? Pride. Pride hides.

An example would be in the need for God. There are many people – especially in this country and our own area – who don’t think they need God. If they are Catholics, then they aren’t here with us at Mass anymore, as I discussed at length in last week’s homily. They are saying either directly or indirectly that they don’t need the Eucharist. So many people have built their own kingdoms and have insulated themselves that they don’t need God. They trust in themselves. They have chosen to be hidden from the things of God. They have chosen to be hidden from the things of faith, especially the Cross and suffering. On a practical level, they are hidden from the mysteries and things of God simply by not being here. They are hidden from hearing God’s Word, from the teachings, from community, and from the grace of the Eucharist. All of these things are revealed to us who are here, the “little ones”.

I run into this dichotomy regularly as a priest, most often with the teachings of the Church. An example would be with the sacrament of Confession. The wise and the learned have made it clear to me that they don’t need Confession. It’s either that they don’t believe in it (again, they know better than the Church) or haven’t sinned. Their minds are made up and their hearts are hardened. It’s a tough sell! But, little ones have heard the teaching and have believed it, and see the need for the forgiveness of their sins. It is so beautiful! Most likely, it has been revealed to them that this is at the heart of the whole mission of Christ: the forgiveness of sins. We are seeing this dichotomy drawn out more and more among Catholics in our country with the current issues involving marriage, life, and other moral issues. The wise and the learned think they know better than the Church while the little ones humbly trust in Her teaching authority as given by Christ. As we celebrate independence as a nation tomorrow, we remember that true freedom is found in humility. Pride hides but humility reveals the Truth which brings us freedom.

Finally, brothers and sisters, Christ is one of the little ones! He is humble of heart and meek (said twice in today’s readings). He invites us to his humble heart which is a soft heart. He invites us to come to Him and He will give us rest. He is telling us that we can’t do this on our own. Life is too burdensome. We are over burdened – mainly with the effects of sin, either our sins or the sins of others – and carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. He invites us to come to Him so that He can give us rest. We will do that in few moments in Holy Communion. We will bring Him all of our burdens, all of our messes, and He will lighten our loads. Sin is heavy, but Grace is light. Through the Eucharist today, may each one of us have our loads lightened and our burdens lifted as we give all of our mess to the Lord…may we grow as little ones….may we grow in humility….may we grow in freedom.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Thanks, Padre. You really got to the heart of the issue. So often it's preached about "child-like faith", but nobody ever says how to become one of the "little ones". This was really instructive.