Pere Marie-Joseph Lagrange, one of the founders of modern Catholic Biblical scholarship, called this brief Gospel passage: “Matthew’s most precious pearl.” And so it is.
It begins with the words, “At that time”, Scripture’s way of alerting us that something special is being described here, that a mystery of salvation is being proclaimed by the Son of God Himself. It’s actually a miraculous little passage, one that offers a glimpse into the intimate life of the Holy Trinity.
In a sense we’re privileged witnesses to a divine dialog of love, one continually carried on between Father and Son, one that constitutes the very substance of the interior life of God. Here Jesus, quite extraordinarily, reveals that He is conscious of himself as divine Person, as the only Son of the eternal God.
But these words, this divine conversation does more than reveal a relationship that transcends time and space. It’s also a proclamation by Jesus, one that effectively places the listener, and that’s you and me, together with Jesus and the Father. His prayer offers us an entryway into eternity and the life of the Trinity. Jesus invites us to become what He has always been and is: a sharer in the divine life.
He begins with thanksgiving and blessing: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” Father and Lord – Jesus uses these two titles, doing so out of the unity of His person, in His divinity and His humanity. Yes, you are my Father and you are my Lord. God has become a man among men, without ceasing to be God. Jesus speaks as the Incarnate Word even when He addresses the Father in the intimacy of His Heart. He lets us witness this turning to the Father, showing us that dependence and obedience are at the very heart of His mission as Redeemer, as Lord and Savior or humanity.
|"...you have not made me like the rest of men."|
Even in the Church we’re not immune to such arrogance. Perhaps a theologian, so learned, so certain he knows the mind of God and disdains those who dare to think otherwise. Or the scriptural scholar so wrapped up in the words that he’s become deaf to the one Word, the Word of God.
And what about us? How many of us look at others, at God’s children, at the least of His brothers and sisters, and instead of offering God’s love, offer the prayer of the Pharisee: “I thank you, Lord, that you have not made me like the rest of men”? – certainly no prayer to God; rather a prayer to oneself.
And so to whom are these hidden mysteries accessible? To the childlike, Jesus tells us. Who but the childlike possess the simplicity, the trust demanded of the true disciple? Who but the childlike willingly accept their utter dependence on their Heavenly Father? Just as a child learns to speak by imitating the words of its mother and father, you and I are called to imitate the divine Son as He turns to the Father in humility, praising the Father and accepting His will. Indeed, St. Bonaventure, whose feast we celebrate today, once wrote, “In all that you do and say, turn to Jesus as your model.”
Consider Moses in our first reading from Exodus. Moses, the soon-to-be great prophet and lawgiver, is overwhelmed at Horeb, overwhelmed by the presence of God, overwhelmed by his calling. But in his humility he accepts his dependence on the Father; and so he allows God to lead him and speak for him as he fulfills God’s will.
So, too, are we called to set aside the self, to suppress the words of self, and to submit to God's Word with simple trust and humility And then, capable of receiving the gift of God’s revelation, those hidden things, we can allow the Father to write the mysteries of the Kingdom upon our hearts.