Tuesday October 1, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 John 4:7-16) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:25-30)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord blesses His Father for revealing to the merest of children those things which He has hidden from the learned and the clever, because when we are dealing with God, we are dealing with simplicity. In order to become like God - which is the goal of our lives - we must become more simple, which is just the opposite of what our society would present that we are supposed to do as we become more mature and become adults. Society says we should become more complex; that is the sign of an adult: somebody with great complexity. But, in fact, just the opposite is true. It is not to be childish but to be childlike, as we know. But to be childlike is to be simple; it is to be able, not to get caught up in all of the complexities of things, but rather to see to the heart and be able to address the situation
Now when we think about what we are called to do, Our Lord follows up this particular statement about revealing the greatest mysteries to the merest children by then saying, "Shoulder My burden. Take My yoke upon you. Learn from Me." What He is asking of us is not necessarily to be like little kids. In fact, He follows up this statement of being like children with a clear indication that we are going to have to take on something which is rather difficult, that we are going to have to shoulder the burden. And yet it is only for those who are like children, who are willing to be obedient, who have total confidence in the love of our heavenly Father, that we will be able to take on that burden. It is only when we are childlike that we will be able to trust completely that this is something which is for our good. Little children do things out of love because they recognize what it is that their parents are asking of them, and they are willing, out of love for their parents, to do whatever it is they are asked to do. That is precisely what God is asking of us.
We are told in the first reading about love and that only those who love are the ones who truly know God, because God is love. He sent His Son into the world to demonstrate love to us. The Son took the burden - our burden - on His shoulders and He brought that to Calvary where He was crucified with the weight of our sins upon Him. Now He asks that we would share in that work so that we would make an offering of ourselves to Him just as He made an offering of Himself for us, so that we would be able to take that burden upon ourselves. But it is not to take on the full weight of the Cross; it is not to take on the burden of all the sins of the world as He did, but rather, to share in His burden, but to do it out of love, because when it is done out of love then the burden is not heavy. Rather, He tells us that His burden is light and His yoke is easy. So He calls us, then, to be like Himself: to be gentle, to be humble of heart, to be like little children, to accept what is placed upon our shoulders and with joy to walk, to go to be with Jesus.
That is the example that Saint Therese gives to us. When she speaks about herself as being a little flower and about the childlikeness and so on, people think of her as some cutesy little saint. This is the same saint who made the oblation of her life to Jesus Christ, the oblation to accept whatever suffering God sends and offer it in union with Jesus. She is the one who recognized that her entire life was given to the joy of Jesus Christ. She was His, and He could do anything with her that He wanted.
It is no different for us. We are called, each one, to offer our life to Jesus, to take His burden on our shoulders, to offer our life to Him as He offered His life for us, to be able to learn from Saint Therese, to have total confidence, total trust, to be able to love so completely and perfectly that there will be no difference between us and Jesus, that it is His work that is being accomplished with us and through us because we are united to Him. That is the childlike trust that we learn from Saint Therese, not some cutesy spirituality that is fake and phony - because it is not. But rather, from the one who is called the greatest saint of modern times we learn a spirituality that is simple but profound. We learn a spirituality that is hidden from the learned and the clever but has been revealed to the most simple, to the childlike - a spirituality that is so completely in union with Jesus Christ that all of the learned, all of the intelligent ones missed it because they got caught up in all of the complexities. But it took one who was simple, who was like Jesus, who was gentle and humble of hear, it took one who was going to be able to recognize what true love was, from the time she was three years old until the time she died at twenty-four, to be able to understand with childlike simplicity the love of God and to be able to present that love to us, who do not know what it means to be childlike because we have decided that to be adult means to be complex.
It is this simplicity, then, that calls us back to what we are supposed to be: to be like Jesus, to have a simple but profound love where we give our entire selves to God with total trust and total confidence that God, out of love for us, desires only the best, and whatever He asks of us is the best. Out of love, we accept it and we will be willing to shoulder the burden and to rejoice because we know that whatever is given to us is given, not out of spite, not out of hatred, not because God does not know our weakness, but it is given out of love because He knows it is what is the best and it is what will make us more perfectly like Jesus Christ, the Love of God who came into this world to take away our sins.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.