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Hidden Secrets Brought to Light

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)  |  Fr Peter Hunter looks into the secrets that we'd rather keep hidden but which today's Gospel says will be brought to light.

Every Friday evening, I help with a group for young people to help them grow in their faith. Last week, we got onto the question of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I explained the seal of the confessional, that priests cannot under any circumstances betray the penitent by talking about the sins they hear confessed.

The group is mostly made up of pre-teens and very young teenagers, and they were fascinated with the idea that you might have secrets which you would never tell, even in the direst of circumstances. Perhaps it was because they are used to secrets being part of cementing a friendship: I tell you these secrets, but only you, and it is a mark of the special character of our friendship that we do not share the secret with others.

Those kinds of secrets are very often innocent and even meant for sharing. But how does it make us feel that "everything that is now covered will be uncovered"? I'm sure most of us have things in our lives that we would rather were not public knowledge.

Jesus, however, is talking about a telling of a secret that we Christians know. He tells us to shout it from the rooftops. What can he mean? Surely Christianity isn't a religion of secret knowledge, where the initiated know things which are kept from outsiders?

I think Jesus is talking about the things of faith. He is speaking about faith as a sort of secret. And that seems odd. I mean, you can go into practically any bookshop and they will sell you a Bible. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is similarly widely available. The Christian faith is preached in churches around the world. I'm doing my best to preach to you through this website, which is available to everyone who goes looking for it.

But it is still the case that the Gospel is in a certain way hidden. St John says, "The light came into the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it." (If you're used to a translation that says 'overcome', where I have 'understood', the original word can mean both those things.) The world of darkness is, as it were, blind to the light of Truth.

That's because the world is full of secrets, of pretences, of lies. Human culture is something glorious at times, but it also conceals the fact that so much of what goes on around us, and sometimes in our own lives, is shabby and shallow and distorted.

The world, and we ourselves sometimes, resist the Gospel because it shines a bright light in places we would rather keep hidden. It makes clear that the things we expend so much of our energy pursuing are empty.

On the day that Jesus is talking about, when everything is revealed, one of two things will be true of us. What we fear is that everyone will finally see what frauds we are, how much our lives are built on tissues of lies. There is a real danger, one Jesus warns us of repeatedly, that our lives will have been based on the kinds of things which will blow away like smoke on that day, to reveal a terrible void.

But the open secret is that God offers another alternative, a life built on the enduring foundations of faith, hope and love, one which looks forward to that day of revelation with joy, because on that day, the person who lives like that will be shouting about it from the rooftops.

Even if we have wasted our lives in stupidity, all is not lost. We can and should turn to God, confident that he will forgive us, and fill us with his love.

What about all those mistakes of our past, things we've confessed, but still feel a certain shame or embarrassment for? They will be like battle scars which have healed, not a source of shame anymore, but each one a mark of the graciousness of God's forgiveness. In truth, they have been secret ways in which God has shown us his love, and their becoming known will be a cause for celebration, not shame.

Jeremiah 20:10-13  |  Romans 5:12-15  |  Matthew 10:26-33

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Peter Hunter O.P.

Peter Hunter O.P.fr. Peter Hunter teaches philosophy at Blackfriars, Oxford.
peter.hunter@english.op.org

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