Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Taken into Jesus' own prayer

For some reason, it still surprises me when the Gospel at Mass seems to say something I had never heard before. You'd think that after 43 years or so of daily Mass I would have heard everything by now. Perhaps it's just an indication of the depths of my distraction—or a hint of the impenetrable depths hidden in the Bible (maybe both!)—that there is still so much I haven't heard. It will be like that in Heaven, too: we will receive God's complete self-gift (in fact, we already do), but will always find more to discover and delight in.

Today's Gospel leads right in to tomorrow's, which awakened the mind and heart of a young James Alberione on a midnight long ago. He "heard" those words we will hear at Mass tomorrow ("Come to me, all of you!") and, like the prophet that he was, responded with his "Hear I am! Send me!" (Which we heard, as you recall, in the weekday Mass last Saturday.) The Gospels read today and tomorrow are part of one narrative and are ideally taken together, but I am going to share with you my meditation of the first part of that narrative:
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“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 the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord..."
Matthew's Greek for "I give praise" (Ἐξομολογοῦμαί) can also be translated "I confess" or "I proclaim publicly" or (as it is in other common English versions) "I bless." It is the same verb Paul uses in Romans 10:9: "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." When we say the Creed on Sundays, we are making our "confession" that Father, Son and Spirit is the One Lord of heaven and earth who has acted in history, in real time. By reporting Jesus' public praise of the Father's saving works, Matthew extends the invitation to us to enter into Jesus' own prayer. This is exactly what is happening in the Mass, as well. We are entering into Jesus' eternal exclamation of praise and delight over the Father's plan.

"you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned"
Paul makes his own comment on God's way of turning the values of the world upside down. "Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 20-21). The attitude Paul decries is demonstrated in today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah. God is complaining that he himself "handed over" to Assyria a certain degree of power over the nations, to deliver God's instructive chastisement for their wickedness, but Assyria attributed the results to his own national prowess and skill, and sings his own praise. "Claiming to be wise, they became fools instead," Paul might have observed of the Assyrians as he did of the pagan Romans of his own time (see Rom 1:22). "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor 1:21).

"you have revealed them to the childlike"
Jesus, the Eternal Word of the Father, is the first of the "childlike" ones to whom the Father reveals himself, and he said that only those "who become like little children can enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 18:3). In the light of today's Gospel, I find myself asking, "What if the Kingdom of Heaven is this childlike state?" What if the Kingdom of God is this receiving the revelation of the Father like a little child, or like the Eternal Son, or like the Virgin Mary?

"Yes, Father" 
There is something about this affirmation (ναί, ὁ πατήρ) that has the ring of an "ipsissima verba" (a direct quote) of Jesus. St Paul also associates the word "yes" (nai) with Jesus: "Jesus Christ...was not 'yes' and 'no,' but 'yes' has been in him" (2 Cor 1:19). This "yes" (nai) is like a further delectation on the part of Jesus of the Father's action: "Taste and see how good the Lord is!" (Ps 34).

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father."
Jesus is no longer addressing the Father. He may be, as it were, reflecting aloud as if to let us in a little on what he is praising the Father for. And here we stand awe-struck before the innermost heart of the Trinitarian life. "All things...handed over." This is what "fatherhood" consists of in God: the complete gift of self, handed over to One who, in receiving them is "the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3).

"No one knows the Son except the Father"
 No one can know the Son except the Father who is equal to him and the source of all that the Son has and is, who has "handed all things over" to him. And clearly this means that "no one knows the Father except the Son" and, miracle of miracles, "anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

- - - - - - 

As I read and reflected on this Gospel, it occurred to me that the entire text makes an excellent "tag" to pray after each mystery of the Rosary. In each of those biblical events, we can praise the Father with Jesus for the way he "revealed to little ones" the secrets of his heart and invites us to participate in them from the inside, making his prayer our own.


Anonymous said...

Like you, Sister Anne, I also continue to be amazed by passages of scripture which I've read and heard many times over the years but seem to jump out at me as if new. You make mention of the use of "tags" in praying the Rosary - I, too, sometimes incorporate scriptural passages in the same way. This is the wonderful gift of sacred scripture, isn't it, the discovering of new in the old, always enriching our prayer life, leading us closer to our Lord? And to think I started with a simple wood and cord rosary purchased from St. Paul Book and Media those many years ago, together with a discounted (water damaged) Bible...a whole lifetime ago, still journeying, still discovering something new and wonderful. God is good! - Jean

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thanks for that, Jean! Speaking of Rosary...let me get outside for my Rosary walk now before I get lost in my computer!!!