In today’s gospel, we first hear Jesus’ praise to the Father, followed by His exhortation to the crowd. The praise that Jesus gives God the Father is that the Father has revealed the good news of the gospel to the hearts of those who are like a child, and not the wise and learned of this world. The context that is not proclaimed during the Gospel at mass, but is present earlier in Matthew 10 and 11 is that Jesus has just sent His apostles to proclaim the good news in His name. As Jesus continues to preach in Galilee, he condemns the towns that do not believe in Him, liking them to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Why did they not believe in Him? Because of their pride and trust in worldly wisdom. Jesus tells them that just as they had found reason to not believe in John the Baptist, so they find reason not to believe in Him. Jesus praises the heavenly wisdom of His Father out loud for all to hear in order to instruct the non-believers.
Childlike faith is essential for accepting Jesus. If a child has parents that have the sufficient means to take care of them, they quickly learn to depend on their parents for their food, clothing, shelter, and way of life. Rarely does a child in such a situation question on whether or not they will receive these things. In fact, they expect to be provided for without question. While they may sometimes complain about the nature of what a parent provides, a child (rightfully so) completely trusts that their parent is going to provide for them.
Doubt only comes when a parent is unable to fulfill this task, or a child loses their childlike faith and begins to question whether they know better. God never fails to provide for us, so wherever we fail to have childlike faith in Him, it is because we believe that we know better, and we grasp after something we should not (Adam and Eve are just the first example).
Because we are made in God’s image and likeness, we have the ability to provide for ourselves, our families, and the poor. Because we have free will, we have the ability to choose to be providers with God in His will as His children, or on our own without His guidance. This is where worldly wisdom comes into play. Wisdom of the world is how to live our life without trusting in God. It is attractive to us, because we see its value in a world that does not live in trust of God. However, we handcuff ourselves to living a life limited by our inadequacies.
The culture we live in today is built on the rejection of childlike faith. Individualism is expressed at every turn. The focus on the self’s goals, advancement, and entertainment is the hallmark of our culture that is increasing in violent acts and psychological issues. If we buy into the culture’s message, we are led to believe that we are ‘free’ to find our own path to ‘fulfillment.’ This ‘fulfillment’ is often expressed in comparison to the success of others. Whether it be the amount of money that is made, social media followers or fame, power/influence gained, or unique experiences lived, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. The trap is that if we are not successful in comparison, we feel like we are failing. Even if we are successful in our comparison, this often only takes place for a fleeting moment until we are surpassed. This is not ‘freedom.’ This is slavery to our desires. We toil to gain just a taste of what we want and in the process, we become enslaved to the world’s oppressive rules which pit individuals against each other. The news testifies to this daily.
But a childlike trust in God is the freedom to this antidote. When we seek the kingdom first, and trust that God will provide the rest, God opens doorways that we could never have thought possible. We are fulfilled in the life we live, because the God who created us is helping us live what He created us for. We are His children, and in being with Him, He provides true freedom. In doing this, He gives us a great gift: showing us how to love. Childlike trust is the truest form of love that humans can show. Exemplified in Jesus, this humility is what we are called to have for our fulfillment and freedom. As Jesus exhorts the crowd, we are not called to toil in vain to provide for ourselves. Our only labor is to deny ourselves to receive the gifts that He wants to give us. In doing so, we will find rest.