“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” (Matthew 11:25)
Every time I hear these poignant words from the Gospel of Matthew, I think of the Saint who lived them out so egregiously: St. Therese of Lisieux “the Little Flower.” Undoubtedly inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. Therese realized that the secret to be showered with divine blessings and favors was the way of relishing our smallness and littleness. She lived her short life (24 years) focusing on proving the soundness of the familiar say: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The lowly get God’s favors.
She found in the Holy Scripture confirmation of the validity of the irresistible impact of smallness and littleness on the heart of our God. After all, Jesus told her, and is telling all of us to learn from him who is meek and humble of heart. (Matthew 11:29)
Isn’t he the humble King, the meek Savior coming to his people riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass? (Zechariah 9:9)
Didn’t he teach that only the childlike can enter his Kingdom? “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14-15)
And didn’t Mary, his mother, point out that the Lord always favors the lowliness of his chosen ones? For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)
This has always been, and will always be, God’s modus operandi: “and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.” (1 Corinthians 1:28)
The picture which inspired St. Therese throughout her entire life is now clear: the Lord, who possesses all riches, all knowledge, all power, all wisdom, and all favors, loves to shower them generously over those who move him to compassion the most; those who embrace the full extent of their insignificance, smallness, spiritual poverty and want.
But isn’t this also our natural reaction? Don’t’ we resist and despise the haughty, the arrogant, the self-absorbed? Don’t we, too, feel moved to help the weak, the hapless, the “underdog,” and innocent children?
To St. Therese of Lisieux and to all those who are comfortable being led by the inner disposition of littleness and insignificance, the Lord promises to reveal the things that he has purposely hidden from the arrogant, the haughty, the learned, those who get their wisdom and knowledge from the world rather than from him.
Shouldn’t we be intrigued? Shouldn’t our spiritual curiosity be piqued? What are these things hidden from the arrogant?
To find this out, we must read the verses before the beginning of our Gospel passage for the 14th Sunday in ordinary time. (Mt. 11:16-24)
In those preceding verses, Jesus condemns many of his contemporaries because they turned down God’s grace which came to them through the harsh words and austere lifestyle of John the Baptist as well as through the normalcy of his life. Their excuse for not following John was that he was too much into penance. The reason for not following Jesus, the Son of Man, was the opposite: they found him to be a glutton, a drunkard, and a reveler. Hence, we find out that the first thing revealed to the little ones is sincere goodwill and openness to all messages sent our way by God to guide and to lead us to his Kingdom.
Going down a couple of verses we find the second thing revealed to the little ones.
Jesus lashes out, fiercely, against the haughtiest cities around the lake of Tiberias: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum because they refused to return to God after they had witnessed a plethora of signs (miracles) from him. Now, why is it so crucial to heed all messages that God sends our way, say, each time we attend Mass? Why is it so vital to detect the obvious, the clear as well the subtle signs of his presence in our lives?
Because of what Jesus states at the end of today’s gospel passage: whenever they labor and are burdened, the ones comfortable with their smallness and insignificance go to Jesus to be refreshed, reenergized, comforted and made afresh. They go to him even after they have gone through many situations in which his yoke was anything but easy and the burden of the cross anything but light.
Now, this very relevant picture should come into focus: whenever we are laboring and are burdened, we can choose to find relief in what the world suggests and offers. I leave it to your intelligence to figure out how effective and helpful the world has been in getting you out of trouble and relieving your pain. Or we can imitate St. Therese of Lisieux and embrace wholeheartedly our smallness and insignificance so that the Lord may reveal to us the secrets, those hidden things which would lead us to take Jesus’ rough yoke and the heavy cross and walk behind him with serenity, courage, and hope.
We should train ourselves to go into our “inner room” and lock the door to all distractions and worries so that, every time our heart is heavy, we ask the Holy Spirit to point out to us all the subtle signs of the Lord’s presence and action in our life. In the beginning we might find only a few; but as we become proficient in this spiritual exercise, we will realize that the Lord always looks tenderly at our smallness and fills us with reassurance and trust.