Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 23, 2012 - Year B
A Child Shall Lead Them
And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."
When I was a kid my daddy encouraged me to memorize scripture. One verse I committed to memory is a scripture daddy thought it important for me to read. It's Ecclesiastes 12:1 - Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, "I have no pleasure in them." Since the days of my youth I've heard the call to the ministry. My folks nurtured all six of their children to know the Lord and his voice in their lives. They helped me to recognize God's still small voice.
Paul reminds Timothy of the origin of his genuine and sincere faith. That faith first resided in Timothy's grandmother Lois and then his mother Eunice. How did Timothy come to have this gift of faith? His grandmother and mother carefully nurtured that gift in the child they rocked to sleep with the stories and prayers of their faith.(2 Timothy 1:1-5) It is said that Susanna Wesley rocked the world as she rocked her sons John and Charles to sleep. The Wesley brothers, each ordained as Anglican priests, birthed a movement of renewal in the church of their day. The result is the United Methodist Church of our day.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messianic hope and the era it brings in brilliant and majestic Edenic language. In that day the wolf and the lamb will dwell together in peace. The leopard and young goat shall take naps together and the lion shall no longer antagonize the calf. And the icing on the cake is that a little child shall play in safety without fear of hostility or strife within the Kingdom of the Messiah. "Nothing shall hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the Lord. In that day the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.(Isaiah 11:6-9)
How we treat the most vulnerable among us is the measure to which we will truly know Jesus and his Father. Jesus invites us, everyone of us, to be great. Jesus is teaching us that greatness is about humility. He's describing the path to true knowledge of Jesus and his Father. How close we are to God depends on how readily we stoop down to accept the presence of a child.
I remember sometime ago speaking to a young family at a parish function. As we left we stopped for a moment to exchange greetings. As the mother was holding her beautiful baby boy, I reached out to see if Matthew would come to me. Without hesitation he came into my arms and snuggled into my embrace. The Mother exclaimed, "You're a good man. He trusts you." Apart from the love and admiration of my family that is the highest compliment I've ever received.
I think we could see God better if we took more effort to see the Lord through the eyes of a child. Jesus today is inviting his disciples and all of us to take a look at the world through the eyes of a little child. That child will lead us. He/She will help us to see with greater hope and faith and love. Looking through the tender eyes of a child helps us to have a better vision of the future, a future that culminates in that beatific vision of God.
It's never easy looking at the horrendous pictures of hungry children. Their tired and emaciated bodies deprived of proper nutrition and water remind us to think again, "What would Jesus do?" I think of the 1.5 + million babies willfully aborted and wonder what we have missed and what we could have seen through their eyes. And then there is the story I read this week here http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=47675. It is the story of a precious eight year old Muslim girl who is speaking to an Islamic gathering extolling the virtues of Jihad and the hatred and violence she embraces. Ruqaya is only eight. I then ponder in my heart how much longer will the Lord allow these injustices to children continue.
Parents recognized the love Jesus had for children. They brought their children to the Master for him to embrace and bless. But somehow the disciples forgot what they learned in Mark chapter 9. By Mark chapter 10 the disciples are rebuking the folks bringing their children to Jesus. It is here Jesus steps in. In fact he is indignant and says, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Whoever does not receive the kingdom like a child shall not enter it." Jesus thinks all of us should want him like the children want him. Children recognize the gentle authority, the blessing that comes from being near Christ. It is a simple and trusting response to him who came not to be served but to serve.
It is the fulness of the Messiah we'll see when we allow our hearts to be less cluttered. Like children, we don't need to impress. Too much baggage keeps us from simply trusting him who without resistance accepted the death men imposed on him. Then after three days he did what God does with death. He cast it off and the children of men to this day shout, "Glory to God in the highest."
Let the children lead us in that perfect praise - the praise God ordains that should come from all of us who once in while still see God through the eyes of a child! Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com