instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Such a gracious will

We all know (and most of us recently heard proclaimed) these words of Jesus from the Gospel according to St. Matthew:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will."
It's a saying that, properly defanged, offers to everyone the comfort of knowing that they are better than the people who are wiser and more learned than they.

But what strikes me now is not the fact that such has been God's gracious will to have hidden things from the wise and the learned and revealed them to the childlike. Rather, it's the fact that Jesus makes this observation as a prayer of praise (or thanksgiving, or confession, or acknowledgement, depending on the translation) to the Father. The parallel in Luke even says Jesus spoke these words in a moment of rejoicing in the Holy Spirit.

What is it about this aspect of God's gracious will that caused Jesus to break into joyful prayer at the thought of it?

I don't know. But what do you think of this:

In hiding things from the wise and the learned -- understood in terms of human wisdom and learning -- the Father gives glory to His Son. No one can reason his way to the Father; as Jesus goes on to say, "no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Thus, every name "written in heaven" is written because of Jesus.

Set aside for the moment all notions of an anthrocentric soteriology. ("Um, okay," you say.) There's a tendency to think that the Christian faith is entirely about us: Adam sinned; mankind has been foundering ever since; the Father came up with the idea of the Incarnation to save us; the Son became man, was crucified, and rose on the third day to save us.

That's all fine, as far as it goes, but can we try a more theocentric perspective? The Father gives everything to the Son, Who returns it to the Father. This includes those creatures chosen before creation to share in their Divine Life. How does the Father give the elect to the Son? By willing that the elect share in their Divine Life only through faith in the Son-made-man. From this point of view, the Incarnation is an expression of Trinitarian love; by assuming our humanity in fulfillment of the Father's will, the Son accepts the gift of the elect from, and returns it to, the Father.

So, when Jesus "began to reproach the towns where most of His mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented," the train of thought led Him right to the Father's love for Him, and in true filial fashion, He was moved to glorify in speech the Father Who was glorifying Him in His mission to those whom the Father gave Him.