"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 (Matthew 11:25)."
In today gospel, Jesus talks to us about "hidden things." These are the great mysteries of God that are revealed to the childlike and are hidden from the wise and the learned because thewise of the world could not possibly understand the ways of God. God is a mystery, and his ways are mysterious. That is why a child is more apt to follow the simple ways of God than an adult who thinks they know better and is resistant to any type of change or promptings of the Spirit. The mysterious ways of God, these "hidden things", have been heavily on my mind as I have been preparing to come here to St. Gregory. This is a time of transition for all of us. I'm starting in a new parish, and all of you have just said farewell to a beloved pastor and an associate. So you get two new priests, and you're probably wondering what they will be like and what they will do. This transition really hit home to me yesterday when I was a greting a parishioner before Mass at the front door. She comes up to me with tears in her eyes and quite sad, and she tells me, "Don't worry Father it's not your fault." (Here I was thinking that I had done something terribly wrong barely 24 hours into my new assignment.) She continues, "I'm crying because last week it was Monsignor Fogarty who was greeting me at the door as he had done for the last 20 years, and I just realized how much I'm going to miss him." I comforted her and told her things were going to be ok, but I began to ponder this moment that we are all going through together. Change is difficult, but it is part of life and sometimes a necessary part of life. The Holy Spirit is constantly calling us to change so that we can draw closer to God. These changes are mysterious at times. We don't know what God has in store for us as we begin this new time together, but what we do know is that God is with us and that his ways are perfect. That is why Jesus thanks his Father, as we should today, for this opportunity that we have to grow and to change together for the better as we throw ourselves into the great unknown trusting that God will guide us.
Speaking of change, this weekend we celebrate Independence Day. Because my grandparents and parents instilled in me a great love for this country where we have freedoms that they did not enjoy in their homeland, every 4th of July I read the Declaration of Independence. It's probably one of the ten greatest documents ever written. When our founding fathers put their signatures to this bold declaration, they were thrusting themselves and their countrymen into a great unknown. They embraced change, but they did so relying on help from above: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Later on in this great document they would appeal to their "Supreme Judge" and then at the end they would say: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." With the great unknown before them, they had to rely on God and his protection for this new country they were founding. They declared their independence from King George but not from the King of Kings. Our country which has always been marked by great moments of change has lost its way as it has removed God from the national consciousness. We have declared our independece from everything and everyone and ceased to be dependant on God. Yet our dollar bill, which can be the source of so much evil, has it plainly spelled out on the back: "In God We Trust." But do we really? Both as a nation and as parishioners of this parish, do we truly put our trust in him? As a nation, we need to get back to trusting God and relying on him as our forefathers did 235 years ago. As a parish going through change, we have to trust that God's ways are indeed perfect and that whatever lies before us will only bring us joy and peace and ultimately closer to him.
God's ways are indeed mysterious. Our founding fathers probably did not envision what a powerful document they drafted and how it would shape a nation, that while flawed, is still a great nation. And God's ways have brought us here to this moment in the life of St. Gregory the Great Parish where two new priests begin their ministry to share the love of Christ with all of you. Only God knows why he has brought me here and why our paths have come together. And together we throw ourselves into the arms of our Lord so that we may continue to grow in holiness. I know from experience that I have been incredibly blessed at each of the parishes where I have been. I am here simply to serve: to share the joy that I have in my heart, to share the enthusiasm that comes with knowing this Jesus, and to share with you every Sunday this Word and this Bread from Heaven that keeps us eternally young. All I ask from you, aside from your prayers, is that you take what you receive here at this altar and that you share it with the world. Take this Jesus to your homes, to your work, to your schools. These hidden things that Jesus talks about today have been revealed to us, and they should not be hidden. They need to be shared! This morning at the end of Mass, the deacon, God bless him, got up at the end to welcome me, and said he wanted to challenge me with three simple words: "Wake us up." I was moved by those words, and I believe that as a nation and as Catholics we all need to wake up. It is time that world discovers through us how great our God is. So, again, all I ask of you, is that you take this message, this presence, this Jesus that I have shared with you to a world and a nation that desperately needs it. My friends, be bold. Be courageous. Be Catholic!