· Vatican City ·

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 9 July

Giving thanks

 Giving thanks  ING-027
07 July 2023

Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus giving thanks and exclaiming, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”

When we thank someone, it is usually for a gift or blessing received. The context for Jesus’ gratitude may surprise us. It was for a desired outcome not received. The chapter begins with Jesus testifying to John as a forerunner to himself, but the people were fickle: “to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to each other, “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn” (Mt 11:16-17). They declared that John was possessed by a demon and Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. The opposition to the preaching of Jesus was so intense that Jesus chastised these towns, “Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!” (Mt 11:21). And as for Capernaum, Jesus declared, “Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld” (Mt 11:23). He ends the condemnation by telling all these towns that “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Mt 11:24). Jesus preached the Gospel and it failed.

In the midst of this frustration, a revelation came to Jesus and He rejoiced acknowledging that the whole situation had been under the providence and plan of the Father, “Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will” (Mt 11:26). What is this wise design of the Father? “You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and have revealed them to little ones.” Saints Augustine, John Chrysostom and Gregory all agreed that Jesus expressed the Father’s great love and preference for the humble while the pride of the learned kept them from understanding. This preference for the humble will lead these little ones into an intimate communion between the Father and the Son. Then Jesus makes the delightfully sweet invitation, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” What does it take to accept this invitation?

Bernard of Clairvaux, in his treatise “on the love of god” describes four degrees of love:

1. Love of self for self’s sake

2. Love of God for self’s sake

3. Love of God for God’s sake

4. Love of self for God’s sake

The first degree of love is a natural and selfish love. The Golden Rule, to treat others as we wish to be treated, is based upon this first degree of love and opens us to the other levels. The second degree, to love God for self’s sake, can be demonstrated by our petitions for various needs and blessings from God. It is loving God for the sake of benefits we might receive from Him. The third degree, to love God for God’s sake, is to fall in love with God Himself. It is expressed in the words of the psalmist, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). The fourth degree, to love the self for God’s sake, is to love ourselves the way God loves us. It is the movement towards perfect communion and what the Eastern Church calls “Theosis”.

Jesus’ gratitude to the Father for a petition not received shows us the movement from the second degree into the third and the fourth. Jesus’ love of the Father is not dependent upon the reception of any particular gift from the Father. In fact, it is in the absence of the desired gift that this deeper revelation of the Father’s heart was manifested to Jesus and confirms the love the Father always had for Him from the foundation of the world.

To those who are humbled, burdened, oppressed, or discouraged, Jesus extends an invitation. The yoke of passing from human love to divine love is the yoke of Jesus which is, in fact, light, comforting, and restful.

*  Abbot of St. Martin Abbey Lacey,

By Fr Marion Nguyen, osb*