At that time Jesus exclaimed: “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
Last Sunday, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass and preaching at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels, in Los Angeles, California. Officially, it has the capacity to seat about 3,000 people. As I walked up the aisle to begin Mass, I saw that it was almost full. I celebrated the weekly Sunday Spanish Mass. I felt overwhelmed by awe and energized at the very same time. Everything is so well organized. Everything was scripted: where to stand at the beginning of Mass, which of the Celebrant Chairs to use, how communion was to be distributed under both forms, and so forth. The Cathedral also had a Masters of Ceremonies that would anticipate my next move and be there to confirm my spot or gently lead me to where I needed to go.
I was there to preach what we call a “Mission Appeal,” to ask parishioners to support our mission efforts as a Province. I think it went well. The main point of my message is contained in a story of a child who was just beginning grade school, in one of the poor villages in India. She ended up by evangelizing me, even though she was not Christian and not one of the “learned and the wise” of her generation.
At the end of Mass, the custom at the Cathedral is for the priest to stand outside and receive the people. It is there that I continue to be evangelized by the people who come to hear the Word of God and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in Communion. Most of the people who stopped by to greet me, young and old alike, are people who are worried about their future, their family, about their health, about their status in this country, about their marriage, in other words, people who are suffering and turn to God in faith for a blessing and for affirmation. They are people who are about to go into the hospital, who have just gotten out of the hospital, who are going back home to another country, wondering if they will ever get back, and yet, they are people of great faith.
One of the greatest challenges for people like me, educated with three degrees, serving the Church and Province in various ministries of responsibility, accumulating years of pastoral experience, is to allow myself to be evangelized. I have to stop myself from judging, offering simplistic solutions when I don’t even know the whole story, so I can be compassionated to someone else’s life experience.
We are given two powerful Biblical personalities in today’s readings: Moses and Jesus. Moses went from a privileged childhood in Pharaohs’ palace to a wandering outlaw, before God catches up to him and calls him: “Moses, Moses!” And Moses answers, “Here I am!” And God tells him, “The cry of the children of Israel has reached me.” It seems that God is being evangelized by the suffering of this world. God is moved to send them a savior, Moses.
Jesus is moved by the people who come up to him, crying for help, crying for healing. Jesus is being evangelized by the poor. And Jesus praises the poor, the oppressed, the suffering for coming to him, as being wiser and more learned than all of those educated people who disrespect them, discount them, dehumanizes them, just because they are not as wealthy, or educated, or socially acceptable as they are.
What do you think Jesus is saying about us?
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.