A Notre Dame professor (The Hidden Things, OSV, July 9-15, 2023, pp. 15) has wonderfully noted that the instruction of Jesus for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time comes to us after three key things have occurred:
REPENTANCE. In Mt 3:1-3, John the Baptist’s holy voice is heard—crying out in the wilderness!
A PRAYER WHERE WE ASK TO BE FORGIVEN. In Mt 6:9-15, Jesus has taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father).
THE DISCIPLES HAVE BEEN CALLED. By the time Jesus speaks these words in today’s Gospel (Mt 11:25-30), the disciples have not only been called but have been listening intently to the Lord’s words regarding mercy and the ways they may discern God’s will and find the kingdom.
Again, the words from Matthew’s Gospel:
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. Matthew 11:27
And to whom does Jesus promise to reveal the Father?
Well, that would be you and me! But only if we become childlike will we find the “hidden (little) things,” that go unnoticed by the world at large: a voice in the wilderness, the turning of a heart (through an act of mercy and forgiveness), and prayer.
Twenty-two summers ago, when my now 24-year-old daughter was two, I remember taking her on sun-filled walks. With her hand in mine, it seemed that nothing was hidden from her; everything was a mystery. A small flower was worthy of a stop for the simple reason of touching it. The smallest bug was also worthy of inspection and a question, “Daddy, where are this bug’s mommy and daddy?” For her, the shortest of walks turned into the longest walks imaginable. These many years later, those moments remain entrenched in my mind and a reminder of where the gems of our lives may be found
I contrast this with my current weekly treks down I-75. So many are angry and hurried that they are willing to risk their lives, and the lives of others, to arrive somewhere five-or-ten minutes early.
As adults, we speed by-and-through our lives. With texts and emails and social media, it is though we have placed ourselves on a non-stop conveyor belt with no off ramp. A few days ago, a Canadian friend told me that her father had decided to leave the legal profession—early. He confided that he had tired of Zoom court appearances and client texts at all times of the day and evening and that he missed the days of sitting across from his clients—in person!
In the third chapter of John’s Gospel (3:8), we are reminded that “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going…” Along with blowing winds, so too does God grant us morning sunrises and the sounds of our family and friends. But, if we’re too busy to notice, if we’re too busy to sit and wonder—like a child, God’s magnificence is lost on us.
Until life hits us over the head.
A man once told me the story of his life and how, early on, he had set out with grand plans that he convinced himself would be “best” for his family. With his heart set firmly upon career ladders and promotions, his life became obsessed with the acquisition of things. He recounted: “You name it, I had it, or would soon.”
And then one day, he noted that it was like I had awakened from a dream. On that morning, while walking in his backyard, he felt a sharp pain in his chest. Within minutes, paramedics arrived, and he found himself in a hospital being treated for a heart attack. He told me that he experienced flashbacks of his children—especially their births. But also, he pondered how precious time had passed, that his children had grown up and moved away, and that he and his wife had grown apart.
While resting on a hospital gurney, he wished and yearned for a return of the school plays, evening baseball games, and Girl Scout cookie sales.
But sadly, they remained wishes that would never come true. For their time had passed. And with their passing, all that was left for him were echoes of small voices, boxes of photographs, fingerprints on bedroom walls, and great emptiness.
As quiet set upon his hospital room, he was left with feelings of desperation. Unable to change the past, the remnants of past decisions weighed heavily upon his heart. Nevertheless, one by one, his children arrived, kissed him, held his hand, and told him they loved him.
After nearly losing his life that day, he eventually regained the gift of health. And from that day forward, his life was different. He was more appreciative, more caring, and more loving. He began to view his life as a gift from God.
Returning to our gospel passage, that Jesus came to reveal the Father to you and me if only we make ourselves childlike, what can we do: The next time a blowing wind comes upon us, we can still ourselves and feel its pleasantness upon our face. The next morning sunrise, we can marvel at its magnificence. And regarding the many voices of our family and friends, we can thank God for being given this gift.
On this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, may our prayer be that we slow down our lives (even a little) and ask God to open our eyes and ears and hearts—-so that we may sense His presence.
By doing so, as Jesus has assured us, we will find rest.