1st Week of Advent (T): Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives thanks and praise to his Father for hiding the divine truth from the wise and learned, yet revealing this same truth to the childlike. He says to the disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” So, along with the wise and learned, prophets and kings are left in darkness, left to grope at the truth in their ignorance. As Dominicans and students studying at a Dominican university maybe we should be worried about this imposed darkness, just a little anxious about the glee with which Jesus consigns the learned to their adult cloud of not-knowing. Wasn't it our brother, Aquinas, who taught us how to treat theology as a science? Didn't he bring the pagan philosopher, Aristotle, into the mind of the Church and shape our faith with his metaphysical wisdom? Take a quick look at the courses we offer here at the Angelicum and decide if we—professors and students alike—belong to the wise and learned. Dialogical Theologies of Religion. Contemporary Philosophies of Theology. Nietzsche and Christianity. Gadamer's Hermeneutics. Heidegger's Essays. Whew! That's a lot of learning! But where are the courses on being childlike? Where do we learn the wisdom of a child's love for her mom and dad? Jesus prays, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” Our childlike wisdom starts with God's revelation.
In case you are worried that your preacher this morning is preaching Christian anti-intellectualism, let me quote Aquinas, “We have a more perfect knowledge of God by grace than by natural reason” (ST I.12.13). Limited as we are in understanding our finite world, imagine the limits of what we can know about the infinite divine! Relying on reason alone—the learning and wisdom of this world—we can glimpse some small portion of the divine in creation. But it is only through a divinely-graced intellect that we can achieve a more perfect knowledge of who God is. Through Christ our Father reaches down to lift us up so that we might see what the childlike already see: true wisdom, the knowledge that passes all understanding, begins and ends in His love for us. This is not anti-intellectualism; this is an intellect super-charged with the grace of revelation.
Jesus tells the disciples that they are blessed b/c they see and hear what prophets and kings long to see and hear but do not. What accident or disease has left these pitiable prophets and kings deaf and blind to God's truth? Is it that they are simply stupid, intellectually ungifted? Maybe they are stubborn or just lazy? No, none of these. Jesus says that he reveals the Father to those whom he chooses. And no one else sees or hears except those chosen. Among the disciples are tax-collectors, fishermen, even a physician but no prophets, priests, kings, or professors. Jesus reveals the Father to the Average Joe's of Judea, knowing that it will be they who make the best witnesses, knowing that the faith gifted to them would flourish in the hard world of work, persecution, and scarcity.
If this is true, surely then, students and professors have nothing to say to the world about Christ. No, we have our own work, our own forms of persecution and scarcity. But what we say about Christ and what we do in his name begins and ends with the love he reveals from the Father. Philosophy, theology, science can all show us some small portion of the truth if and only if our most basic assumptions and methods rest firmly on the knowledge that we are creatures, made in the image and likeness of our Creator. From this knowledge we can unravel the truths of our purpose and love both freely and