Back in 2002 then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005) published his three book-length interview, God and the World, his second such work with the German journalist Peter Seewald.
Despite the fact that the book is thirteen years old and that Ratzinger/Benedict is now living out the remainder of his life essentially out of the public eye, the interview remains a powerful text, worthy of consideration and reflection. In this post, I’d like to highlight one excerpt that relates to recent posts here at Cruciform.
Seewald asks the Cardinal about Jesus’ enthusiastic love for children, and quotes Matthew 11:25: “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.” Ratzinger comments thusly:
Yes, here again is the mysterious pattern of the way God acts: the whole magnitude of it is more easily grasped by simple people than by those who, with a thousand distinctions and diverse intellectual baggage, ferret out each little bit on its own and are no longer capable of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the whole.
No rejection of intellectuals, or of detailed knowledge of Scripture, is intended here, but a warning not to lose our inward simplicity, to keep the meaning of the whole in view, and to allow oneself to be impressed, to be ready to accept the unexpected.
It’s no secret that for intellectuals this is a great temptation. When we look back on the history of the ideologies of the past century, we can see that simple people have often judged more soundly than intellectuals. The latter always want to make more distinctions, to find out more about this and that–and thereby they lose their overall view. [emphasis added; pp. 243-244]
Ratzinger is right on here. For those of us whose way of living and grasping the faith is perhaps more intellectual, the temptation to over-intellectualize the faith is indeed great. We must always seek to have that childlike simplicity, that awe and wonder at God’s work of creation and redemption. We must be on guard against the temptation to “experiment on God,” to reduce Him to a scientific project or hypothesis which we are seeking to validate. We must remember that we are the creation, and He is the Creator.
As the Cardinal notes, Jesus is not condemning intellectuals or an intellectual approach to Him per se, but rather He is calling us to retain that wonder, that simplicity, which so characterizes the child’s view of the world around him.
How do you maintain the simplicity and wonder of a child in your own faith life?