"Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
The Gospel of Saint Matthew addressed the Church as it gained more experience of different problems in different countries speaking different languages in radically different cultures. The "saints,' as they preferred to call themselves, were to be tangy salt and brilliant light. They should make a difference by being different. If they dressed like their contemporaries and ate the same food and lived in similar houses, if they carried on the same trades and shopped in the same places, their style had to be different.
Their difference was their knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. These mysteries were not readily disclosed to strangers.
A fellow, seeing my Roman collar in a supermarket, once asked me about the Blessed Sacrament: "This is supposed to be the Body and Blood of Christ, isn't that right?"
How do you answer a question like that? If I reply am I throwing my pearls to swine or casting seed on barren soil?
The fellow had been told he should prepare his son for First Communion but he was frankly unfamiliar with our rituals and beliefs. He supposed the instruction could be summed up in a few words, perhaps in between sitcoms and the evening news, weather and sports. He was not willing and wouldn't take the time to attend the adult instruction his parish offered to parents.
These mysteries are known over a lifetime or not at all. They're not found on Wikipedia; you can't google the answers. They engage the heart and the mind; they demand sacrifices of time, talent and treasure. They discipline one's work and play, one's eating and sleeping, one's associations and intimacies.
Jesus, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, says of our contemporaries:
Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.Recent studies of the brain show how difficult it is for bad habits to be broken and good habits to be formed. We adopt many attitudes before we can walk or talk, and they are changed only by deliberate and persistent discipline. Many of those changes can occur only by moving into a new environment; treacherous friends must be shunned and dysfunctional families kept at arm's length.
When the Roman Empire became nominally Christian many devout souls moved out of their homes and villages to pursue holiness in the isolated wilderness. When that experiment failed, they created monasteries and wrote Rules that would be administered by strict abbots and abbesses. To this day religious life is supposed to be markedly different from the culture. But the continual history of reforms shows how difficult it is; there is no formula for holiness. Nothing about it is automatic.
In our time, the Spirit has again challenged the institutions of the Church, and especially has reminded us that everyone -- not just "professional religious" -- must be salt for the earth and light on the mountain. If few are called to monasteries, convents or friaries; everyone is shown the mysteries of the Kingdom of God through a lifetime of daily fidelity.