Wednesday July 14, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Isaiah 10:5-7, 13b-16) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:25-27)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord gives praise to His heavenly Father because what He has hidden from the learned and the clever He has revealed to the childlike. Now the question is, of course, what does that mean for us? Well, first of all, to be childlike is also to be godlike. Children are simple, they are trusting, they are good, and so on. The innocence of a child and the simplicity of a child is what God is looking for.
Unfortunately, most of us have kind of outgrown that. It needs to be returned to, and the only way that childlike nature is going to be restored is through prayer. That is the only way it is going to be restored. If we want to be able to have revealed to us the mysteries of God, if we want to be able to understand the truths of God (not the objective truths, as in the fact that the Church teaches us in the catechism so that we understand with our minds and intellectually can grasp the nature of truth, but rather if we want to be able to hold God within our hearts), if we want to be able to understand in the depths of our being the very mysteries of God Himself, then we need to pray.
This is what has been hidden from the learned and the clever. In fact, the most intelligent people in the world will not know any of these things unless they have a deep and profound prayer life. For instance, if we look at some of the greatest saints as far as the Doctors of the Church go, we can think of Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas Aquinas. In each of these instances, there are stories about them, about how they were trying to wrestle with certain concepts and understand what it is that they mean. And what they would do was go to prayer and ask the Lord; they would ponder in prayer and seek insight. In fact, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, who is known in the Church as “The Theologian” of all that have ever lived (this is a man who lived in the 4th century), said very specifically and completely truthfully that a theologian’s ability is equal to the depth of his prayer life.
So it is not about what you can grasp as far as just logical points of truth in the catechism (that is there for everybody), but it has to do with really entering into the mystery and the Persons of God Himself. That is what we are called to do. It is not to know the truth at an arm’s distance – we absolutely need to know the truth, obviously – but it is to enter into the truth, it is to be conformed and transformed into the truth, and this truth is also love. That can only be done in the heart. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but rather it is a pursuit of the heart, it is one of love. And as we grow in love with God, since we become like those we associate with, we become more like Him. That means we become more simple, more innocent, more perfect, and therefore more childlike. That is what we are seeking.
Now that seems to go against everything we think an adult should be. But when we see a true saint in our midst, we can think of somebody like a Mother Teresa, for instance, whom we certainly can all recall. She was exceedingly childlike, trusting completely in God, praying always, looking to the Lord, and yet the wisdom which came forth from that woman’s mouth was something that would be able to put the worldly-wise to complete shame. And she did it in such a simple way but it was so profound. That is a true childlike nature. When we see something like that, we realize it does not violate our dignity, it is not something which would go against what we would really desire, but rather it fulfills the deepest desire of our heart.
So there is an invitation here to enter into the very mystery of God, to be able to enter into that union with the Lord, but that can only be done in one way – and that is prayer. It is not, again, just about saying prayers, but rather it is about entering into our hearts, having that time set aside every single day for that deep, silent, interior prayer so that we will find union with God. And in finding that union with God, the saints tell us that we will then be conformed to God and in time actually transformed into God Himself, that our will then will be one with His. At that point, we will have achieved perfection, perfect simplicity, perfect love, that perfect childlike nature where all the things which are hidden from the learned and the clever will be revealed to those who love God, who have become childlike, and have found union with Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.