“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
Today’s Gospel is the same one we read just Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart. I mention this only because it occurred to me Friday morning that we celebrate the Sacred Heart but we don’t have a Feast of the Sacred Head. After all, Jesus was smart. Even at age 12, when He was separated from Mary and Joseph, when they found Him in the temple, Luke tells us in Chapter 2 of his Gospel that “all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.”
So, if Jesus was wise and learned, what’s He telling us today? I think I know. I spent five years in classes preparing for ordination. Priests spend twice that much time. We’re required to take continuing education every year. I have shelves full of books at home and more shelves of books in the rectory. Do I need all this for my ministry? I do. Does any of this get me any closer to God? No, not really.
My five-year-old granddaughter Isabella just finished a week at Bible camp. I promise you that she’s closer to God right now than I am. Being wise and learned won’t keep you out of heaven but it won’t get you in either. If you tell a five-year-old that Jesus loves them, they believe it. If you tell an adult that Jesus loves them, they’re going to want proof. That’s where all the books come in. For centuries men have been trying to prove what we believe. I think they’re doing it all wrong even though I’ve done the same thing myself.
What we need is faith. Faith is the belief in something that can’t be proven. IF we could prove the existence of God; IF we could prove that He and His Son love us, we wouldn’t need faith. And, life without faith is no life at all.
You remember the song “Jesus Loves Me”?
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.
That little song is profound. It’s really all you need to know.
Yes, wise and learned people can get into heaven. They just can’t let all that wisdom and learning get in the way. All we really need is a simple, child-like faith in God’s love. My favorite Bible quote is John 15:12, “This is my commandment. Love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for ones friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
That’s it! Short and to the point. Love one another and you’ll be my friend.
Sadly, as we grow up life gets more complicated. Black and white turn into thousands of shades of gray. We lose our childlike faith. We know Jesus loves us. We know what He wants us to do to love Him back. But life can get in the way.
Fortunately for us, we have a way to get back to the basics. We’re doing it now. It’s called Mass. This is where we can sit quietly and be taken up in the mystery. This is where we can receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We’re blessed to have this beautiful church as our place of worship.
But it’s not the building that makes us “church”. It’s the act of worship that makes us “church” and we could do that on the parking lot or in somebody’s home. It doesn’t matter if the lights are on, or if the candles are lit, or if the air conditioner’s working properly. All we really need is a place to gather and a simple child-like faith. “Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”
This weekend we celebrate the 235th birthday of our nation. On July 4, 1776, our Founding Fathers declared our independence from Great Britain. Most of us can’t recite the Declaration, but as Jesus said, it’s not necessary to be wise and learned to understand what those 18th Century men were trying to do. They wanted “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle(d) them.”
Most of us are familiar with the beginning of the Declaration, “When in the course of human events….” But do you know the ending? The final sentence says, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
In spite of all their wisdom, in spite of their learning, in the end it was their reliance on Divine Providence, their child-like faith in God, that gave them the courage to risk their very lives on the success of their cause.
As we sit in church today and as we celebrate the 4th of July weekend with barbecues and fireworks we should all take time to thank God for the gift of our own faith and for the faith of the men who founded our nation. They were driven by their belief in their God-given rights and thanks to them we have those rights today. As Catholic Christians we also have faith, and a responsibility to do all that we can to make sure our children and our grandchildren have those same rights.