Fourteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Denis Geraghty tells how our involvement in the love between Father and Son makes it possible for us to bear our cross.
This beautiful prayer of Jesus points to the intimacy he has with his Father — a passage more familiar to readers of John rather than Matthew. It is described as blessed because revelation of the mysteries of God’s interior life are hidden from the learned and the clever and are revealed to mere children — blessed too because this knowledge is given only to those whom the Son chooses to reveal it.
This does not mean, of course, that many of the human race are excluded from knowing the Father and the Son. It means that knowledge of the Father and the Son is an utterly gratuitous gift which cannot be earned or merited — a manifestation of love for the world.
Why then is it hidden from the learned and clever and given to babes? Jesus is not making an anti-intellectual statement but warning us that there is a certain kind of ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’ that can despise revelation seeing it as beneath consideration only for fools and simpletons — that is why it is ‘hidden’ because it has become a barrier to knowledge of the Father and of Jesus. It is given instead to ‘babes’, to mere children. We are to receive revelation like children.
But to be childlike is not the same thing as being childish — something probably misunderstood by the ‘learned and the clever’. It is to receive revelation with openness and trust. It is only then that we can internalize it, make it our own, and through the Holy Spirit be made aware and sensitive to the Trinitarian life of God.
It is then, in the light of being a child, that the second part of this passage in Matthew makes perfect sense. ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’ We are opened to the intimacy of love that exists between the Father and his Son Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit we are changed and transformed by it.
The first epistle of John puts it succinctly enough: ‘He who lives in God lives in love, and God lives in him’. That is where we find true rest and refreshment. We do not love God because he loves us — we love God because he has loved us first, which therefore makes it all possible. A truth that can be obscured and hidden from the wise and the learned we must then learn from Jesus because ‘he is gentle, meek, and humble of heart, and we will find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light’.
But we should not sentimentalise this. When Jesus is talking about his humility and his meekness, he is talking about his relationship to his Father, for he lives in humble obedience to him. Behind this dark saying is the Passion. Jesus is not saying that the Christian life will be easy. But we will be able to accept a yoke that is dedication to Christ — a life which should free us from egotism and self-centredness. There is no glorification without the cross, but we can carry our cross with complete reliance on God, who is the lord of heaven and earth.