Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You Have Hidden These Things From The Wise, And Revealed Them To Children

Exodus 3:1-6; 9-12
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"  And Moses said, "Here I am."

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

Matthew 11:25-27
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

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When we are planning a trip, or when we are facing a decision, we often look for signs to guide us, to keep us on the right path. Wouldn’t it be helpful if the signs were as visible as the one Moses was given in today’s first reading? It would be hard to miss a burning bush. What God had in mind for Moses to accomplish was an important and challenging task. The vision of a desert shrub burning, but never being consumed, seems like an appropriate signal.

Moses, for his part, is not sure he’s the best candidate to accomplish the task: Who am I? Why choose me? I have some sense of how he felt, since about forty years ago, I had to make a decision whether God was calling me, and wondering whether I’d be up to the challenge.

God did not produce a burning bush to get my attention, then, and I doubt he will do that now. Nevertheless, I have to pay attention, to pray, to be open to whatever God has in store for me tomorrow, and the next day, and for as long as he gives me the strength and the clarity of mind to do whatever he asks of me. And, merely mentioning those two words reminds me of my father and my mother’s brother who lost both physical strength and clarity of mind before they left this life for the next life. But, whatever the future holds for me, I need to remember that God is with me, and will give me the graces I need to do his work and accept his will.

There is an expression I used to hear when I was a youngster, mostly from my father’s sisters, aunts Rose and Helen, “Tell the truth, and shame the devil.” My mother’s sisters, Ma Tante Aline and Ma Tante Claire had different expressions about reminding us to tell the truth, which suggests that it is an Irish saying.

Now that I’m past my childhood (and not yet into my second one), I could use some of that advice myself, at times. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that many truths have been hidden from the wise and the learned, but shared with little children. Elsewhere, Jesus tells his disciples that to enter the kingdom of God, we have to become like little children (Matthew 18:3).

The English word “infant” comes from the Latin in-fans, which means unable to speak. Babies don’t tell lies, they don’t boast, they don’t slander other people. Why not? Because they’re not old enough --- yet! But the “little ones” of whom Jesus speaks are not just the children, but the humble, the helpless, the heavy burdened. They are the ones who realize their need for God, and for God’s gifts. Their knowledge may not seem significant at all; it is not derived from book-learning, and is not capable of subtle debate and discussion. It is, “a wisdom that has been hidden, and that none of the rulers of this age have understood and if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 2:8) It is the wisdom of God incarnate in Jesus, that dwells in us through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

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