This article is transcribed from a homily given at St. Mary’s Parish in Ottawa, July 16, 1986. It is presented in the style that Fr. Bob spoke, and is not his typical written work. The article was originally published in the Fall 2016 edition of our quarterly newsletter.
The line that strikes me is when St. Matthew quotes Jesus. It’s where the master says, “I praise you, Father, because you have hidden these things from the learned and the clever and you have revealed them to mere children” (Matt 11:25). We know that he talked about children more than once. He said, “Let them come to me. Don’t prevent the children from coming to me. Let them come” (Matt 19:14). I suppose they piled all over him. He loved children. And he said in other places and he’s quoted more than once saying, much in the same way, “Be like children. Be like children all of you” (c.f. Matt 18:2-4). I think that’s what he’s talking about here today. That the Father has revealed things to the merest children. Things that are hidden and kept from the learned and the clever.
I’m not an expert on children but I am a keen observer. I have been observing and relating to children for years, and I’m still doing it. In fact a lot of them are like grandchildren to me now. Not an expert at children, but I’m a keen observer.
"I think what Jesus means is that he wants us to be dependent like children. Children are not independent. They depend on others, don’t they? Jesus is saying be like children, depend upon me. Don’t be as tough as the world tells you to be. Don’t be so smart or independent. Don’t be so together but rather be like children, dependent upon me."
I think he means too that he wants us to be like children in that they ask a lot of questions. Children don’t assume, by my observance, that they know very much. And as a result of that they ask all kinds of questions. If you’ve ever spent a day, and I know some of you have day after day, with an 8-year old or a 7-year old, you know what it is. They ask their questions. “That’s good,” I think that’s what the Lord is saying, “ask me questions.” And trust the way children are as well. Jesus is saying if we will come to him as children, then he will reveal to us the things that are hidden from the learned and the clever.
Would you say that this world as a human society is in the control of the learned and the clever? I would say so. It’s the brains that are running us, right? They’re telling us where to go, what’s important, setting priorities; it’s the learned and the clever that are in charge. And yet the Lord is saying things are hidden from them and revealed to the merest children. Jesus is calling us to be childlike. Not childish, childlike. And he will reveal things to us. If we rely too much on our own intelligence, we won’t know what Jesus calls these “things”. These things are very simply the greater truths.
- How do I know for example, that God is real if I don’t see him?
- How do I know if Jesus is who he says he is? Master, Lord, Saviour and King? How do I know?
- How do I know that the Holy Spirit is powerful if I don’t experience that?
- How do I know that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament, in this place?
- How do I know that there is life after death?
- How do I know that there is heaven with the Lord?
- How do I know that there is such a place of purification as purgatory?
- How do I know any of these things?
Jesus tells us how we know. It’s by revelation. Not just revelation to the Church in the beginning, not just revelation of the Church over the centuries, but revelation to me. It’s a word that is spoken by the Holy Spirit to my spirit. When I come to him like a child. “Come to me,” he says, “you that are overburdened.” Ever feel that way? Do you ever feel burdened down? My burden is that I’m so busy. At least I think I am. I kid myself into thinking I’m so busy, it’s my burden. I feel burdened. I have to come to the Lord as a child, because I can’t handle it. I really can’t. Do you ever feel burdened? Jesus is saying come to me like a child. And I will reveal.
We’re really talking about the gift of faith, aren’t we? That’s what it is. Faith is a gift from God. The truth about God and not only the great truths that I’ve talked about, but what he is saying right here right now, those things are available to us by revelation. If you look for logic, if we try and figure things out, we’re liable to miss it.
And you know, it’s very, very difficult for those who are very clever to come to Jesus like children. Like one of my students who asked me “How come, Father, all the brightest people in the world are atheists?” I was caught a little off guard as I very often was, and I said, “Well, in the first place, they’re not all atheists, and in the second place I think you have a point. The problem is, they’re so smart.” It is difficult for an intelligent or clever person to believe there is something that he or she can’t figure out. That’s just difficult. It is hidden from the learned and the clever. Until we become humble, until we come in subjection, in surrender, until we get to that point of surrender we don’t really know.
Faith is not something that can be handed from one person to another. I, as the preacher here, the pastor of the parish, I can’t give you faith. I presume you have faith. But, who knows? Maybe you just wandered in off the streets, saw the crowd coming and came in. I don’t know. That’s possible, it has happened. It happens regularly. Or maybe you’ve been dragged here today. That happens too. That happens to children sometimes. Who say to themselves, “Well, I’m going all right. But when the day comes when I can make up my own mind, I won’t be there.” Why? Well because the faith is not stirred up, you see. Or, not only children get dragged to church, sometimes spouses get dragged to church in order to keep peace at home.
So I as a preacher can’t give you faith. I can’t do it. I cannot make that revelation to you. Neither can a teacher in a classroom, or the leader of a group. Nor can parents give faith to their children. They can’t. It comes directly from God. The only thing I can do, the only thing that we can do, is to encourage people to open their hearts to the Lord. To come to him like children, in submission, in surrender, so that he can deal with me, with you, with them. That’s the way it works. And that’s what Jesus means.
Well once we come to that point of surrender in our lives, then the light of faith begins to burn bright. We don’t have to get dragged to church anymore. We want to be there. We want to be there to join with brothers and sisters and worship God, because if we don’t, we forget who we are. We’ll think we’re in control. And if ever there was a mistake that anybody could make it’s to think that he or she is in control of things. I cannot control my world. And the sooner I give up control and try to handle it and design it, the better off I’ll be.
We need to come to Jesus as a child. Once that light of faith begins to burn, the presence from the power of God will energize me, will transform me, and make me a new person. And then the great thing is evidence starts to pile up about what God is doing. It’s like he gives you a new set of eyes so you can see what he’s doing. Believe me, take my word for it, there is absolutely nothing to compare with seeing God work. Because he knows how to do things. Once we come to that point of surrender, come like a child before him, all those things that are hidden from the learned and the clever, he reveals to us. Jesus says come to me as children. The response we need to make is Lord, we come.
Fr. Bob Bedard, CC was the founder of the Companions