The Importance of Being Small
Tuesday December 3, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 10:21-24)
The Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that everything has been handed over to Him by His Father. Therefore, anyone that He wishes to reveal the Father to is the one who will know the Father, and anyone to whom the Father reveals the Son will know the Son; but otherwise, they cannot. Now it is on one level the choice of the Lord; on the other level, however, because of our free will, it is our choice as well. And so the Lord blesses His Father, then, for revealing to the childlike what He has hidden from the learned and the clever.
What we see is that the way God is going to work is if we are humble and if we are simple; then He is going to reveal more to us. Even to those who are learned and clever, God has certainly revealed His existence and certain elements regarding the eternal truths, but to really know the depths of the Lord, to enter into the profound relationship with Christ is possible only for those who are small. It does not mean that if God has endowed you with great intelligence that you cannot enter into that kind of relationship, not at all. What it means is that you must be humble. That is where He is saying that it is not a matter of head-knowledge that is going to bring you into that union with Christ; it is a matter of the heart. We need to know Jesus, not merely to know about Jesus.
We see how this is going to work in the first reading, which the Church gives us, that is, through the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,” we hear, and there will be “a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and of strength, of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” So, again, we see the exact same thing. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit to have that fear of the Lord. It is that filial fear, the matter of having such a profound love for God that we do not want to offend Him in any way. It is when we have that kind of love for the Lord and when we are growing in union with Christ to that point that we are going to be endowed with the greatest understanding of the mysteries, to be brought deeply into the heart of Christ.
We see the same thing toward the end of the reading. We hear, “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles will seek out, for his dwelling will be glorious.” Recall that when Our Lord was born into this world, the house of Jesse (who is the father of David) was a laughingstock; there was nothing left of it. And so all the promises that God had made, it appeared that He had abandoned those promises and not fulfilled them. But, of course, He fulfilled them in the most glorious manner. Only when what appeared to be the glory of the house of David was completely stripped and it was humbled, then God raised up from the root of Jesse the most wonderful sprout: Our Lord, born of Our Lady – the two most humble persons ever to walk the face of the earth, and, therefore, the two most glorified persons to have ever walked the face of the earth.
That is what we are called to as well: to humble ourselves, to realize that, no matter how learned or how clever we may be, we cannot do it. It is not in our power to be able to do much of anything except sin – we can do that all by ourselves but we even have plenty of help with that too, on the other end. But we need to call upon the Holy Spirit. We need to look to the Lord. We need to recognize our dependence. We need to ask Our Lady to bring us to Jesus. We need to humble ourselves and become childlike. A child goes to his mother and asks his mother for help because he cannot do so many things. When we realize how small we are in comparison to God, and no matter how learned we are, when we realize how little we know in comparison to God then we can recognize how humble we need to be in the face of God’s majesty. And in humbling ourselves we can become childlike. We will turn to our mother and we will ask her to bring us to the truth, that she will bring us to her Son, that she will reveal to us the Father.
That is the childlike attitude. When Our Lady and her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, are at work within us, filling us with these gifts, filling us with true fear of the Lord and with a love for God, that is when we are going to have that kind of wisdom and knowledge that is hidden from the learned and the clever and revealed only to the childlike. It is the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of God is Jesus Christ. Only when we are humble and small will He be revealed to us in His fullness.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.