With the dawn of technology, and its rapid development, I am always amazed at how children are able to adapt so quickly to the new advancements and to use technology. Though I would put myself at a level of an advanced user of technology, which is mostly for my work, there is one thing that I have never been able to go beyond the beginner level and that is in the area of computer generated games. I am astonished at how children as old as five and six often get the better of me in almost all the games that I have played with them. I will unashamedly admit that I am totally hopeless at using the game console and often end up watching in awe how young children are so good at it. It is one of the mysteries that probably I will never come to understand.
Our gospel today expresses similar sentiments when Jesus, amidst His disciples, exclaims, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children”. One could certainly ask, ‘what did Jesus really mean?’ Scripture scholars, even today two thousand years later, are still trying to come to grasp the full meaning of Jesus words as recorded in the gospels and how is it possible for Jesus to tell His Heavenly Father that little children have understood?
One must understand that the comparison that Jesus makes between the clever-learned ones and the children refers to a tension that existed during Jesus’ public ministry. As we all know, the Pharisees, scribes and the teachers of the law were in constant opposition with Jesus, finding fault in almost everything He did. These were the clever-learned ones during the time of Jesus. It is because of this fault-finding attitude that prevailed in them, they were not only unable to understand the fullness of Jesus’ teaching, they also refused to be taught by a carpenter’s son from Nazareth and his companions who were mostly uneducated.
On the other hand, those who surrounded themselves around Jesus were the simple and common folk and probably uneducated too. They were eager to learn about God and that is why Jesus appealed to them – His teaching made common sense and they were like a sponge, absorbing everything.
The difference made by Matthew in the gospel between the clever-learned ones and the children is seen in the response each of them makes. The clever-learned ones who have mastered the art of analysing everything, they began to scrutinise every word and action of Jesus in the light of Mosaic law. When they started doing this, they would only find fault with Jesus and His disciples. On the other hand, the ‘mere children’ that Matthew refers to in his gospel, they were not scrutinising Jesus’ every word and action but rather listening and watching intently and the outcome was… affection and love for God. To one group their analytical skills was a stumbling block; while to the other, they just resorted to faith – faith in the person of Jesus.
Today we live in a society where we resort to analysing anything and everything. We only want to believe if it makes perfect sense and where doubts no longer exist in the mind. Only then do we want to believe. We want to be like Thomas the Apostle, whose feast we just celebrated at the beginning of this month, and say… “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” If only faith was as simple as that.
Faith is based on a relationship and not on science. That is why the invitation Jesus makes in today’s gospel is very comforting: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest… my yoke is easy and my burden light”. Trying to make sense of everything can be extremely energy sapping and what usually happens when things don’t make sense in our mind, we choose to discard – including religion. But there can also be another response and that is to admit that the human mind is limited and that we cannot understand everything but yet choose to believe – that is faith. Faith not just in an empty space but faith in a person – that is Jesus Christ.
If we certainly want to experience God in this life, then we should perhaps in matters relating to faith, be less analytical, judgemental, and maybe even logical and begin to build a trusting relationship with Jesus, whom we call our Lord and Saviour, and not just when we need favours but at all times and in all things. “Trust is letting go of needing to know all the details before you open your heart” (unknown).
– 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)