I think it is vitally important for us to understand the context of this Gospel if we are to break it open and see what it has to reveal to us about our God in our midst today.
If you remember last week… It was Matthew 10… in which Jesus said, unless you take up your Cross, you can not follow in my footsteps. That was part of the instructions that Jesus was giving to the disciples as he sent them out into the world to teach and to preach.
We concluded that a big part of that message was the call for acceptance, not only for the disciples but for all of us. To know and to realize that the Crosses of our life that we carry can be in fact our greatest blessing, primarily because it is our imperfection that allows us to be loved.
This Gospel is Matthew 11, where Jesus himself has gone out just like the disciples and he has been preaching and teaching and John the Evangelist has sent his followers to ask if it really was Jesus! Toward the end of that interaction falls this prayer of Jesus… We don’t often get to see Jesus in prayer….only here and in the famous Jesus Prayer of John 17, so it is a very interesting insight into Jesus
relationship with God.
Jesus prays this prayer in Capernaum, the epicenter of academic thought, scholarship, and study in an extremely pluralistic melting pot of the Mediterranean world. Biblical scholars often say there is record of over 18 different religious shrines and temples in the ancient city of Capernum. It was an important seaport and trade abounded.
Ok… enough context…
As you all know, in the various worlds in which we have lived our lives and continue to live, we all speak different languages. Every area has it’s own language. Clerics are often accused of speaking in a foreign tongue. If you walk in the world of engineering, you would hear things like stress loads, weight-bearing, exponential vibrational stress, and the list goes on. If you are in construction, you would hear things like slugged blocks, lam beams, reverse grading, elevation, and sightlines.
Advertising and marketing, you hear impact printing, messaging, visual acuity, and tactile effects. Education you would hear measurable outcomes, curriculum development, student testing, and teaching to the test… the list is endless.
None of those are bad, in fact, they are necessary for the areas to grow and prosper. Intelligence and education are never bad unless they stop us from allowing us to access our own vulnerability and need for the Divine in our lives.
Jesus said…”I offer my praise to you Oh God, for what you have hidden from the learned and clever you have revealed to the little ones.” It could be tempting to say, well then I really don’t need to learn about
my relationship with God, or understand anymore. And sometimes I have even heard that message preached.
Yet to follow that thought to a logical conclusion could lead us to never having to ask the really tough questions of our lives. We believe God is infinite. Vast, complex, both of this world and beyond, and we have been given a tremendous gift in the ability to think, reason, argue, debate, and dialogue with one another.
My friend, Fr. Ron Rolheiser said it beautifully: The depths of infinity are never threatened by finite intelligence. And so its never a bad thing to become learned and sophisticated; it’s only a bad thing if we remain there in the confidence that we have it all figured out!
Certitude is the opposite of faith. Faith, deep and profound faith, is about a relationship with God that we know we have touched and at the same time realize we will never know given the limitations of being human in this time.
My granddaughter Teagan taught me a very important lesson while we were studying an anthill in her back yard.
Papa, she said, aren’t these ants amazing? They take all those little pieces of dirt and keep piling them up and then it rains and they have to do it all again. Why do they do that Papa? To which I could only reply, well Ms. T, if they didn’t keep doing their best, they would never reach their goal.
If these days have taught us anything, I think one lesson is for sure…It only takes a microscopic virus to remind us, while we understand many things, there is always more to learn, and it’s no different with God.