Today’s Gospel selection (Mt. 11:25-30) follows some harsh words of Jesus directed towards those who lack faith. However, Jesus’ mood changes here to one of praise and thanksgiving, giving thanks to God for having revealed these things to the little ones and not to the wise and learned. It is the little ones who have been gathered around Jesus, listening to him and learning from him.
Has Jesus something against the wise and the learned? Perhaps he perceives them as being too full of their own importance, too sure of their own conclusions, and therefore not capable of being open to the extraordinary powers of God. Jesus is very aware that the religious leaders of the people had great learning and knowledge of the Law, but were utterly deficient in mediating God’s love to the people that they shepherded. On the contrary they used their learning to place great burdens and the yoke of judgment on the little ones. That same knowledge and learning had led them to a trust and confidence in their own opinions and judgments but had totally hidden them from the mysteries of God. They didn’t have much time for Jesus either. He was one of those little ones, but apparently a defiant one. He was to them a ‘mere’ carpenter from Nazareth, a wandering preacher totally lacking in credentials.
We are presented with two groups of people here. One group is described as the wise and learned, the other group is called the little ones. Now it turns out that God chose the latter group to reveal things to. It appears Jesus identifies himself with this group also. God has given him all things, and he is the one through whom we can now know God.
We have to ask ourselves this question. When faced with these two groups, which one do we identify with and which one do we chose to listen to? Are we ever much inclined in our communities and gatherings to listen to the voices and wisdom of the ‘little ones’ so that we might learn God’s revelation through them?
Jesus invites those little ones to come to him. He knows they are burdened and oppressed by unjust laws and judgments. He knows that they are weary from never being heard. Jesus invites them to lay that down, and offers them a new yoke and a different load.
Jesus must have had fun with his images. The yoke immediately suggests animals, perhaps donkeys or camels, harnessed together to accomplish a task. The wise and learned would have a hard time seeing themselves in such an image. But the little ones, they understood. To be yoked together suggests a partnership, a walking side by side. That’s what Jesus invites us to, to become the little ones and walk side by side with him, learning from him the simple mysteries of God.
The image reminds me of our sister Catherine who walked with Jesus learning from him. She did not walk ahead, she did not follow, but she walked step-in-step with Jesus. And wasn’t Catherine one of the little ones, unlettered and unlearned, but oh, how much did our God choose to reveal to her.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP