One of the ancient condemnations found in the Old Testament is to those who are wise in their own estimation. You find it in Isaiah and in the book of Proverbs. Jesus’ condemnation in today’s Gospel is actually to them. Who are they? They suffer from the sin of pride, which is the sin of actually blocking off the grace of God and relying on their own wisdom and knowledge. In a sense, they are like people who live in a in a dark, stuffy cave and cannot be convinced that there is anything outside of it. Meanwhile, the fresh air and the warmth of the sun, like God’s grace is blocked.
You can find these people inside and outside the Church. So they have closed themselves off from the grace of God and rely only on their own knowledge and human wisdom. You see some of them as guests on TV news shows all the time.
Let me give you an example: They may mock you for your belief in God and tell you that evolution disproves the existence of God. When in reality, evolution makes atheism an illogical assumption. But they are closed off to this, they cannot see this because they are wise in their own estimation. Sometimes it can be that they assume that there is no God because they are pursuing a way of life that they feel God would disapprove so they deny his existence.
It works the other way as well, there are those who are so determined that their understanding of Catholicism is correct that they are closed off to God’s grace that is trying to soften their hearts.
Jesus says clearly here that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom he seeks to reveal Him. This means we must always be open to deepening our understanding of God and living that deepened understanding as we communicate to God and of God to those around us.
Jesus referred to the Father as Abba, which you know is Aramaic for Daddy. He was challenging those around him who had maintained a less than adequate image of God and refused to deepen it. In fact, in some cases, these people were using their image of God to manipulate others.
There was a famous story of a televangelist who preached about Jesus every day on his super popular program. Eventually, he was caught up in a financial scandal in his ministry and was sent to prison. While he was in prison, he later admitted, he read the Bible for the FIRST TIME. It was there he learned that all he was preaching of Christ was wrong. Both atheists and devout Christians, including Catholics can be working out of a false image of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:
“…we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn “from this world.” Humility makes us recognize that “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” that is, “to little children.”30 The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area “upon him” would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us. 2779
So if we become like rocks in our understanding of God and refuse to deepen it, or if we choose to believe that we have evolved to the point that we do not need God then we are among the people whom Jesus described have no knowledge of the truth. The way to become like them is to be rooted in pride and pride puts us into that cave.
So who are the others? They are those who are humble or have been humbled and the saints tell us that many of those people are in fact the sinners who have come to realize that their life choices brought them to be nowhere they planned to be. These are the people who are suffering under the burden of sin and all its effects. They have been humbled and have to realize that the way they are living just is not working. If they are living in the same cave, they realize they do not fit with those who are doing fine there. They are looking for an alternative and to them Jesus says Come to me and I will bring you life. Get out of the cave.
The doorway is not through sin, but through humility. It is those who have been humbled who are most open to finding the way to Christ. The simple who are able to say they do not know, which is the beginning of wisdom.
Let us look at this example: we have a serious opioid crisis in this country. Did you notice that it has grown more serious since our culture has told everyone to leave religion and reject Christianity, especially Catholicism. You do know that one of the most powerful tools of breaking an addiction is the Sacrament of confession and humbly recognizing the need for God’s grace in this vice. That in fact is the first of the twelve steps. Now you have many of the learned and the clever looking for one solution after another and they are not working. There is even a talk of limiting the number of times an addict can be saved by medical personnel. Meanwhile in different parts of this archdiocese there are holy hours in prayer for those suffering from these addictions many by parents who have lost a child to it. One of the most powerful tools against addiction is indeed coming to the sacrament of Confession regularly which the learned and the clever will never encourage you to do. It forces someone to admit a problem, which the power of addiction and of sin tries to hide from the sufferer.
The most powerful way to experience God is when we recognize we are only human and we need the grace of our Heavenly Father through his beloved Son.This humbles us and makes up open to God’s grace. It leads us out of the cave. Meanwhile, the learned and clever will never know what the humble discover. But they remain in the same cave that the humble left behind.
Fr. Carr is member of the Segundo Elo of the Canção Nova Community. He is the parochial vicar of St. Michael’s Parish in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA and is the editor of this blog. He is the author of several books, blogs and hundreds of videos all of which you may find on Youtube. You can follow him on twitter as @frbobcarr and on Google plus as+FrRobertCarr, his website is Carrbooks.com. Thoughts, comments on the homily? Let us know at Facebook