Celibate life can prompt some big, existential questions about the nature of human intimacy with God. When I look at the ring on my finger and imagine a similar ring on the (invisible) hand of Christ, I wonder: What does it mean to be invited to share an intimate relationship – the most intimate relationship — with someone who is so utterly mysterious?
All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and 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. These words from Matthew find a striking parallel in John’s gospel: No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
There is something which stirs under the weight of words like “vow,” “obedience,” “poverty,” “repentance.” To the contemporary Western imagination, the thing which stirs—the family of obscure reminders about our nature as creatures—elicits a quiet shrug: “we already know what these words mean, and those are postures we’ve outgrown, have we not? The mature, modern person has no need of these archaic patterns, for the self-made man or woman is vowed to no one but themselves; one need only obey the agreed upon social conventions (even if our conscience may quiver from time to time); poverty is, as a matter of categorical necessity, a social ill to be triumphed over, escaped, conquered; it has nothing to do with our essential nature; and to repent? well, let’s not deny our dominion over ourselves—our bodies are, after all, our own.”
‘At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants…’
Who are “the wise and intelligent” to whom Jesus is referring? Any one of three groups who held power. One, the scribes and Pharisees who were the educated, Jewish elite. Second, the Greeks, whose intellectual prowess was recognized even by Rome. And thirdly, Rome, which was the occupying and controlling force in Palestine. To a Roman ear, when Jesus, the peasant, prays aloud to the God whom he calls “Father,” – Papa – I thank you, Papa, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things – his revelation – from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants – Jesus is an idiot to the Greeks[i], blasphemous to the Jews, and treasonous to the Romans because Caesar, only Caesar Augustus, was called “God from God.”[ii]
Matthew 11: 25-27
The Son reveals the Father to those whom he chooses. Yet, Jesus says, the Father has hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants.
It is a well-worn image that those who are wise in their own eyes cannot see God because they are too attached to their own ideas. It’s well-worn because, when it comes to God, it’s quite easy for us to think we know who God is, and to place limitations on God, that is, decide beforehand what God can and cannot do. Fortunately, God cannot be put in a box.
I know this because at other times – usually when I’m despairing over some problem, weakness, or circumstance and I can’t see God anywhere – I’m able to lay aside my ideas about God, and to let God be God.
What usually happens? What is revealed when old ideas are cast aside? I cannot tell you specifically what you will see. The Son reveals the Father to those whom he chooses: individuals who seek God with an open mind.
What I can tell you is that God is really big. God is bigger than all the ways we typically limit God. For example, God is bigger than the United States. God is bigger than the English language. God is bigger than anything our minds can fathom. And God is even bigger than our problems. God is really, really, really, BIG. And God is full of surprises.
Chapter forty-one of our rule, The Maturing of our Minds in Christ, states that “as our faith matures we come to recognize Christ’s hidden presence everywhere.” That’s because a maturing faith is paradoxically childlike. It is marked by openness to new ideas, points of view, and experiences. All of which enable us to see again our God, who knows neither time, nor place, nor limitation.
The Son reveals the Father to those whom he chooses. Will you come to the Son with an open mind so you can see?