Today’s Gospel is short but very meaningful. I’m sure you’re hoping my homily will be the same! The Gospel is especially important in a setting like Dartmouth where students and faculty dedicate their lives to study and the pursuit of truth and wisdom. The Gospel helps us answer the question – who is really wise in the sight of God?
The Gospel has two distinct but related parts. In the first, Jesus expresses profound gratitude to the Father, source of all that is good, because he has freely chosen to take note of the “Little Ones” by giving them a share in his divine wisdom which is sometimes withheld from the “wise and learned.”
We might be tempted to interpret this passage as anti-intellectual or unfair to those who dedicate their life to study, but this would be a mistake, for God does not despise learning. Rather, God willingly shares His wisdom with the world. However, the Gospel teaches us that the learned (like the scribes and Pharisees) can sometimes be tempted to pride, of thinking they know it all and that their law or their teaching is the final word. In thinking this way, they close themselves off to God’s gifts. When Jesus says that “these things” are revealed only to the humble and unassuming, he is referring to the revelation He received from the Father and offers us to accept in faith: that He is our Savior!
This revelation is nothing less than a message about the real meaning and purpose of our lives. It’s a very important message given the challenges we face on this Independence Day Weekend as we continue to deal with COVID-19 and try to address the sin of racism in our land. Jesus’s message and example are that we must always love, serve and forgive one another. We must treat each other with dignity and respect as children of God, created in God’s image and likeness. This message of love and peace is often hidden from those who want to control life on their own terms and by means of their ideologies and human knowledge, rather than to subordinate that knowledge to the higher wisdom of love, mercy, and generosity. The Gospel teaches us that we come to know God the Father through Jesus, the meek, humble and peaceful king referred to in the first reading from the prophet Zechariah.
The second part of the Gospel is about Coming to Jesus and accepting his yoke of faith which requires humility and sacrifice. It’s a lightened burden because we carry it with Jesus – it is a burden people of faith carry together – a burden (a Cross) that has meaning since it is carried in faith and with love.
Faith and reason are not opposed to one another. Human learning co-exists quite easily with Divine wisdom; in fact, it’s enhanced by discovering how much is beyond its comprehension, for this is also an important part of wisdom. Jesus isn’t condemning human learning or its great achievements, but I believe he is saying that human wisdom will always be trumped in the long run by divine wisdom. This is not a defeat for human wisdom because in God’s divine plan (and this isn’t easy to accept), you and I were never meant to have the last word! That is reserved for God.
It’s not so bad to be a “Little One”. “Little Ones” aren’t weak, ignorant, or anti-intellectual. Rather, they are wise enough to know they aren’t God and realize they don’t have all the answers. They recognize they must be open to God’s gifts of love, faith, hope, wisdom and correction. Little ones are always ready to ask more questions, are willing to approach the Lord with humility and gratitude and, most importantly, are wise enough to hear and respond to Jesus’s invitation to come to Him with life’s burdens, fears, and difficulties.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
fr. Brendan Murphy, O.P.