October 1, 2016
by George Butterfield
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 460

Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17
Psalm 119:66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130
Luke 10:17-24

Praying Ordinary Time

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, is one of the most beloved saints. I do not know exactly why this is but my hunch is that many of us experience a conversion that eventually leads us to identify with her. She believes that she does not have much to offer to God, except love. She feels lowly and small and, in many ways, she is. She is a truly simple person. Saint John Paul II admitted that at first she did not do much for him but that, as he grew in faith, her simplicity became more and more profound.

The Book of Job introduces us to a number of individuals who think they know a lot more than they really do. Take Job’s friends, for example. They think they know everything. They certainly have God and his ways all figured out. They have no problem explaining everything to Job. Of course, they did not know what they were talking about. Job, on the other hand, knew that what they were saying was wrong but he still wondered why God had allowed his misery. On more than one occasion he challenges God to explain himself. In the end, Job admits that he has been dealing “with great things that I do not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.” God’s ways are simply not our ways; God’s thinking is not our thinking. Job has come to the beginning of wisdom – to realize that his knowledge is as nothing before the Lord. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote some pretty deep and amazing things. However, at the end of his life he likened it all to straw in comparison to what the Lord had revealed to him. With all of his great knowledge, he points us to a simple life of trusting in the words of the Lord. This is true learning and wisdom.

The psalmist certainly agrees with these saints. If the Lord shines his face on us, if we trust in his commands, then the words of the Lord shed light and give understanding to the simple. It would be easy to read this and conclude that, if I study the scriptures and gain knowledge and understanding, that I will no longer be simple. It is as if we equate being simple with being a simpleton. So, the goal, according to this way of thinking, is to gain wisdom and no longer be simple. I believe that this misses the point of the psalm. The Lord gives understanding to the simple. When you quit being simple, when you think you know more than you do, when you have God figured out, like Job’s friends, then you can no longer receive understanding from God. You cannot embrace it; you don’t get it. Get back to being simple and humble and the light floods our hearts and minds.

The alleluia verse, sung in the liturgy before the proclamation of the Gospel, is “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.” It is the simple who can receive God’s mysteries. The proud cannot receive them. In fact, to them there are no mysteries, at least none that humanity cannot figure out without the help of God.

Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus says,

“I give you praise, 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.”

Lord, help us to humble ourselves, embrace simplicity, and receive the heart of a child. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, pray for us.

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