Who is stronger: a weightlifter or a bodybuilder? A weightlifter, right? It takes a lot of strength to lift heavy weights.
Bodybuilders are also strong — at least to a certain degree — but they are more concerned about appearances: well-defined muscles that give the appearance of strength, which they gain by many, many repetitions of somewhat lighter weights. They look impressive but if you have something really heavy to move, it would be better to choose a weightlifter.
Physical strength is not the only area of life where appearances can be deceiving. In today's Gospel Jesus contrasts 1) those who appear to be wise but don't know what really matters and 2) simple people who do understand what's important. He praises the Father who has hidden the meaning of Jesus' mighty deeds (that he is the Messiah) from the wise and the learned (the scribes and Pharisees) and revealed them to the little ones (his humble followers).
His opponents think they know all the answers, but the most important truths are beyond our powers of reason and so have to be revealed to us by God. We can't discover these truths on our own and the only people able to accept them (here: the truth that Jesus is the Messiah) are those whose hearts are open to the possibility of God doing something new and unexpected.
Self-important people are ignorant of Jesus and his mission because their hearts are closed to him. Appearances can sure be deceiving. Even today, the most important truths are hidden from those whose hearts are closed. They can only be learned by those who open their hearts to God with childlike humility.
One of the truths revealed by Jesus is about true greatness. He says that true greatness is the product of living for something bigger than yourself, for which you sacrifice yourself, for which you are even willing to die. True greatness derives not from the effort to make ourselves appear greater through worldly pursuits: power, possessions, pleasure and prestige. Appearances are deceiving.
Worldly people are not happy, at least not as happy as they could be. Jesus teaches us the path to true greatness and thus to true happiness. To take this path, we must die to self like he did.
If you bear your burdens, your crosses with love and learn from him, become meek and humble of heart like him, you will find rest for yourself. True joy is hidden from those who dedicate themselves to selfish worldly pursuits. It is only found by those who truly give themselves to God and others with sacrificial love and childlike humility.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily July 9.
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