I came across a post by a dear priest friend of mine and I was struck by his writing that I decided to re-post it. May you be blessed by it as much as it has blessed me.
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In the Eyes of a Child
There was an accident and a man lay unconscious by the road. As the crowd gathered around, a gentleman approached trying to see what he could do to help the man. Then from behind a woman’s voice was heard, “Step back, everyone. I know CPR. I’m the one he needs right now, so please step back.” The gentleman gave way and then said, “I’m glad there’s someone who could administer CPR here. By the way, I’m a doctor, if you need my help, I’ll be right behind.”
It’s such a paradox that those who have little knowledge are the ones who think they know everything. And those who know so much are the ones who understand that they still know too little. If you don’t believe me, just go back to when you were still a teenager. Oh I remember the arrogance of my youth! Just at the threshold of discovering new things, I thought I knew everything. I remember reading then someone defining adolescence. He said, “Adolescence is that time of our life when you wonder why everyone is wrong and only you get it right.” I resented that definition that’s why I can still remember it. But now, far beyond my adolescent days, I can only nod in embarrassed agreement.
When I was ordained in 1996, I felt I was ready to conquer the world and offer it the fresh wisdom of a newly ordained. Eighteen years into the ministry, I realize I have offered so little and there is still much to learn.
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus proclaim, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” This is an affirmation of the childlike and a rebuke of the wise and the learned.
Some clarifications are in order. Jesus here is not promoting mediocrity and incompetence. Jesus is not encouraging a community of simpletons. In calling to task “the wise and the learned,” Jesus is neither making a statement against intellectual pursuit, study, academic competence and erudition. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One of the Scriptures’ first images of Jesus is a boy eagerly listening to and engaging the learned scholars of the Law in the temple (see Luke 2:46-47). The boy Jesus was so enraptured by the intellectual exchange he completely lost track of time and forgot to inform Joseph and Mary of his whereabouts.
So who are the “wise and the learned” that are convicted in the Gospel? It is those who “know” but do not know what to do with what they know. It is those who pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is those who are gifted but do not utilize it as a gift but rather as a tool to show others how “deprived” they are. Their gift, instead of building communion creates division and isolation.
The “wise and the learned” of the Gospel is like a doctor who defines a kiss to his audience as “two alveolar ridge pressed together for a certain period of time.” If you needed to consult a dictionary to know what the sentence means, you got my point.
The “wise and the learned” of the Gospel is like a doctor in philosophy who goes to the wet market looking for cut fish fillets and says to the hapless fish vendor, “Could you please dichotomize this aquatic being into two divergent realms?”
Some people flaunt their knowledge with the conscious intent to separate themselves from others. They act frustrated but actually rejoice secretly that they are alone, that no one can understand them.
In the Gospel, Jesus rebukes the so called “wise and the learned” of his time (see Matthew 15:25), the Scribes, the Pharisees and the experts of the Law. They have read the whole Torah. They knew the Torah like the palm of their hands and yet Jesus implied that the secrets of the Kingdom remain hidden to them (see v25).
I remember now this story.
John and Paul wanted to be converted to Christianity. They underwent a period of formation that included a thorough study of the Bible. At the end of their formation period, John challenged Paul to answer several Scripture questions: “Where was Jesus born? how many parables did he give? how many people did he raise from the dead? What are the 8 Beatitudes? How many letters did Paul write? Where did he go for his missionary journeys?” Paul did not know the answers. John chided him saying, “You dumb. You’re not ready to be baptized yet!” Paul responded, “ I don’t know the answers to your questions but this I know. Since I began reading the Bible, I recognized how sinful I have been. And so I stopped cheating my wife, I became more patient with my children, I began paying correct taxes and I learned to be more humble.”
Wisdom is not a matter of how many books you can get through but how many books can get through you. John got through the Bible. Paul allowed the Bible to get through him, i.e., through his heart. Bishop Fulton Sheen often reminded, “Do not just read the Word of God, let the Word of God read you.”
Jesus’ problem with the “wise and the learned” is not that they were able to get through the voluminous books of the Law and the Torah. His problem was that none of these books got through them.
One of the titles we honor Mary with is the designation Sede Sapientiae, that is Latin for Seat of Wisdom. Christianity reserves for Mary the greatest of professorial chairs so to speak. Why? Because she carried in her womb Jesus who is the way, the TRUTH and the life. But to add to that, she did not only get through all the events of salvation history. She allowed them to get through her. Didn’t Luke the evangelist eloquently paint Mary as she who constantly “pondered all these things in her heart”?
That is the childlike disposition that Jesus praised in the Gospel.
Who is the childlike that the Gospel praises? It is the “master who emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” Jesus is the “Totally Other” who made Himself “Emmanuel” – one with humanity. To be one with us, He took on our lowly stature, spoke our language, lived our lives and died our death - so that we could share in His very life. This is the childlike disposition that does not allow pride to get in the way of happiness and relationships. Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened (read: trying too hard to make their importance felt), and I will refresh you. Learn form me, for I am meek and humble of heart (vv 28-29).”
In the eyes of the childlike, one can stand tall without stepping on others. One can become a victor without making a victim of others.
So how do you see the world? See it through the eyes of a child. See it through the eyes of Mary. See it through the eyes of God.
Fr. Joel Jason
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