Saint Vincent Archabbey
14 Ordinary Time
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 11: 25-30
This Sunday's gospel is brief but exceedingly rich in meaning. It has two distinct, though related, parts. In the first, Jesus expresses profound gratitude to the Father, source of all being and goodness, because he has freely chosen to take note of the little ones. He has done so by giving them a share in his divine wisdom, while withholding it from the "wise and learne". This certainly does not mean that God despises learning but rather that the learned are too often tempted to pride, and thus closed to God's gift.
When Jesus says that "these things" are revealed only to the humble and unassuming, he is referring to the revelation that he received from the Father and now offers to all of us. This revelation is nothing less than a message about the real meaning and purpose of our lives. And since it concerns how we love and serve and forgive, it is hidden from those who want to control life by means of their human knowledge, rather than to subordinate that knowledge to the higher wisdom of love and generosity. It is only in this way that one can come to know Jesus as the one who reveals the wisdom and the gift of the Father.
In the second segment, Jesus reminds us that accepting his wisdom of loving service will indeed mean submitting to the yoke of discipline and sacrifice. But it will be a sweet yoke, first of all because we bear it with Jesus, and then because it is a burden that has meaning since it is carried with love.
Those who devote their lives to scholarship have often taken a dim view of religion and in many cases have rejected faith altogether. They see religion as an enemy of real learning and useful only for those who have not yet been "liberated" by knowledge. Too often the children of deeply religious parents, when sent to secular universities, end up with no faith at all. Today's gospel speaks directly to this issue. Jesus is not condemning human learning, even at the highest level, but 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 it was never meant to have the last word.
Jesus heard this "last word" from his Father, creator of all the things that scholars study. He has passed it on to us, by word and by deed, and it tells us that we are called to freedom and then to loving service. Human learning can co-exist quite easily with this wisdom; in fact, it will be greatly enhanced by discovering how much is beyond its comprehension, for this too is an important part of learning. For that reason, all colleges and universities should include a strong religious element in their curriculum. And it is for that reason also that Catholic institutions of higher learning should be supported because it is there that the claims of divine wisdom can be discussed at the graduate level and without prejudice. And so the "little ones" in today's gospel are not those who are ignorant, much less anti-intellectual. Rather, they are those who are learned enough to know that human beings are not divine and therefore need to be open to the gift of God's wisdom. This liberation from a false ideal of knowledge without limits will help all of us to lighten our yoke when life turns mysterious and the gift of God is all that really matters.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern
Gospel: Matthew 11: 25-30
The Gospel passage this week comes at an end of a chapter in which Jesus is facing increased opposition from the people of Israel. He reproaches the various towns in which he had preached, ministered, and performed miracles, that resulted with little conversion or repentance of the people there. Jesus turns his disappointment and anger into prayer. This is a lesson for all of us in what to do with the difficult situations that trouble us.
Jesus turns to his Father with praise and thanksgiving, acknowledging his Father and the importance of trusting in the will of the Father. Very often we might act impulsively to difficult situations without taking the time to turning over the Father in prayer for guidance. This could include calling upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially Wisdom and Understanding needed in our particular situation. The lesson for us is to follow this example of Jesus by turning to the Father and surrendering to his will.
Jesus teaches us not to keep the Father's presence to ourselves. The unity of Jesus with the Father is a perfect unity; "No one knows the Father except the Son.." While our unity is not perfect, it is a unity that strengthens and consoles us. Jesus moves from praise and thanksgiving to his father to the invitation to us. He calls us to bring all that is wearing us down to him and he will help us. He uses the image of a yoke that calls us to picture two farm animals with the wooden yoke across their necks so that together they can pull a heavy load. We are to picture ourselves and Jesus with a yoke connecting us so that we can carry the burdens of life, not alone, but with Jesus. Jesus does this for us out of meekness and humility, so that we might find rest. How beautiful it is when we are that connected, in unity with the Lord, so as to experience that rest! It's a rest that calms us, renews us, and energizes us.
Finally, the invitation to come to Jesus with our burdens is not only for us, it is for all. On our part we can extend this invitation to others through prayer and words. In this Gospel we learn that it is the Father's will that has hidden the teachings of Jesus from the wise and clever, yet revealed them to the childlike. The religious leaders who were considered the ones with knowledge, were the ones who rejected Jesus. Meanwhile it is the fishermen, the tax collectors and sinners who were receiving Jesus and turning to him. In order to accept God's word, one must be open to it and receive it with humility and a type of innocence found in a child. One might not expect to find this innocence in the tax collectors and sinners, but the way that they responded to Jesus, repented and followed him is proof that what we sometimes assume about the spiritual life a person can be wrong. We don't know why someone is living a life that we might see as sinful, and we also don't know what is happening in their soul. Sometimes there is a receptivity to the Lord that we don't see, while in fact in the midst of all the things they seem to be doing wrong, there is a childlike faith that when touched by God's presence turns them to him. This opens within us the ability to see the work of God in ways we do not expect to. With this comes a peace and calmness in the midst of frustrations and even anger.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.