Fr. Paul Brian Campbell, S.J.
In yesterday’s gospel, we saw Jesus scolding the people of three cities where he had shown many signs of his real identity for their slowness in believing in and accepting him. Today he speaks warmly in praise of those who have become his followers.
Praying to his Father, he says that it isn’t the learned and clever, the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious experts, but the childlike, his disciples, who have been graced with understanding the secrets of the Kingdom. They are childlike not only in their lack of sophistication and learning but also in their openness to hear and learn, a virtue lacking in those who regarded themselves as intellectuals.
This was, in fact, a reflection on the development of the early Church. It was a grassroots movement which spread mostly among the lower levels of society and among slaves. It wouldn’t be until later that Christianity spread to those with higher status and became the faith of the ruling elite and the intellectual classes as well.
Growing and spreading the way it did, Christianity demonstrated that it was God’s authentic work. It triumphed against powerful forces which tried very hard to eradicate it but, in the end, the power of truth and love was too strong for even the strongest opponents.
It also revealed the universal nature of the Christian faith. It has never been the exclusive domain of the political and educated elites. It has appealed, and continues to appeal, to people at every level of society from intellectual giants like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Teresa of Avila to the totally illiterate. Both can sit side by side and hear the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist together.
Finally, Jesus suggests that in knowing him and, through him, he gives us the gift of knowing the Father. All of us can open ourselves to that gift. Why some of us do and others don’t is something we won’t understand in this life. It’s a gift which is offered, but never imposed and we can never know to whom it has been offered it and who has turned it down.
Let’s thank God that we have been among those who have listened and accepted and been graced. But we know we have a lot more listening and accepting still to do. Jesus stands at our door and knocks today and every day. It’s up to us to decide how wide we want to open the door and let him come in.