Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30
I give praise to you, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wiser and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones. With these words we hear Jesus, filtered through St. matthew’s Greek syntax, praying as a Jew. For example, with his contemporaries, he would pray whenever he broke bread, Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Today, as he surveys his unlettered followers he prays, Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, for what you have hidden from the clever and the learned, you have revealed to mere children.
Most religions, invoking divine beneficence, bless people or projects or possessions. Judaism may be unique in blessing God for the created wonders bestowed on us. Blessing God? How could we do that? Only by acknowledging our true relationship with God, our complete dependence on God.
The Jewish Scriptures describe creation not only as God’s handiwork but as the manifestation of divine glory–God’s beauty and majesty, God’s fullness. If we would, we could read creation–the marvels of the heavens and micro organisms, the landscape and bodies we move in, the succession of seasons, even human achievements in medicine or good government–as a great book describing God’s love and care for us. Had God not loved us, we would not have been created. If we open our eyes, the glory of God would fill our sight.
Blessing God means acknowledging that splendor and, rather than hoarding it, returning it, offering it back to God. This blessing has the circular motion of what we in Christianity describe as grace: God grants us a share in the divine life which draws us back to God. Perhaps here Jewish and Christian theologies describe the same reality from complementary perspectives. Blessing is a beautiful participation in God’s creativity.
If you happen to have an academic degree or two, don’t be discouraged as you listen to Jesus today. If you don’t, yes, this is good news and you have a special place in God’s creation. But that’s not to say that any of us has an advantage.
What Jesus says could jolt anyone who thinks his or her diploma puts them on the inside track to God. Not so! Wouldn’t that be an abuse of our learning? Shouldn’t education teach us the limits of our knowledge or the ineffectiveness of our human understanding?
But the point isn’t, if I know less, I’m closer to God. The point is, the university professor will encounter situations when the woman who does his dry cleaning can set him straight. Her living relationship with God may save him from his convoluted thinking about God. Then there are times when he, feet on the ground and not playing the professor, really helps a confused student through a messy patch of life.
None of us has it all and how much I miss if I’m not grateful to God for the variety of people–people so different from myself–with whom the Creator graces our lives. What a difficult yoke life would be without our interdependence; what a heavy burden each day of competition could be instead of appreciating one another’s gifts!