20 September 2009

WELCOME THE CHILD

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 9:30-37

There once was a king, John by name. One day, King John decided to visit the schools in his kingdom. In one of the schools he visited, he went inside the classroom of a kindergarten class. He wanted to chat with the children. “Who are the great kings of our kingdom?” King John asked the children to start a conversation with them. The children shouted almost in unison: “King Peter the Valiant! King James the Wise! King Philip the Kind-hearted!” Embarrassed because not one of her students mentioned King John, the teacher bent and whispered something to Biboy’s ears. “King John!” Biboy suddenly shouted. “Really?” delighted, the king asked. “And, tell me,” he continued, “what made King John great?” Biboy looked blankly at the king and stuttered, “A…I don’t know.” The king blushed yet managed to smile, saying, “It’s alright, son. I also don’t know.”

King John readily accepted Biboy’s answer. He even agreed to the child’s candidness: Biboy said King John is great, but Biboy did not know why. Such are children! From their limited insight, they have their own way of self-expression. They are not like the elders who can hide the truth behind complicated or eloquent speech. It is natural for children to tell the truth. Having learned by experience quite early in their lives that they are almost completely dependent on their elders, children cannot lie about their real needs and limitations. There is much to be done for them, much to give them. In order to live, children really need to be trustful.

A child takes center stage in the gospel today. Jesus puts a child on center stage: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name,” He said, “welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but Him who sent Me.” Do you notice something in these words of Jesus? Do you remember that once He already said that whoever wishes to enter the kingdom of God must become like little children? This time, Jesus does not admonish us to become like children; instead, He asks us to welcome children. Do we have a problem welcoming littleness that children symbolize? Perhaps, we do. But the gospel today shows us that even before it became our problem, it was already the problem of the apostles themselves.

Do you still remember the gospel last Sunday where Jesus, refering to Himself as the Son of Man, declared that He must suffer, be rejected, and be killed? After such a disturbing declaration, Jesus invited those who wish to be His disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. That gospel last Sunday was the first of the three predictions of Jesus about His passion. Today, the gospel gives us the second. With His ministry in Galilee already done, Jesus headed straight to Jerusalem. He really wanted His disciples to understand the meaning of the things yet to happen there; thus, He traveled with His disciples in secret, teaching them in private, far from the mob. Again, He told them that Son of Man – no less than Himself – would fall into the hands of His enemies who would put Him to death on a cross.

St. Mark, who wrote the gospel for today, tells us how the Twelve reacted to these horrifying predictions: They did not understand what Jesus meant but were afraid to ask Him. They could hardly understand what kind a Messiah Jesus was. They could not accept Jesus as the powerless Messiah. They were afraid to ask Jesus Himself, for He might confirm what they feared most: Jesus, the Messiah, would be liquidated by His enemies. The disciples could not face such a scenario; thus, they amused themselves by discussing who among them was the greatest, the most powerful, the most important. Soon enough their amusing discussion turned into a threatening argument.

Arriving at Capernaum, Jesus asked them: “What were you discussing along the way?” Their face fell as silence fell upon them all. No one could answer. No one dared answer. How could anyone of them dare? While the Master was telling them how low He would yet bend to serve humanity through His own death, the Twelve were arguing who among them was the greatest. With Jesus’ inquiry about the topic of their heated exchange, shame suddenly made all the Twelve mute but not deaf. They could not answer Jesus except with the silence of shame. Jesus broke the silence of their shame through the quiet littleness of a child. He placed a child in front of them, put His arms around it, and challenged all His disciples to welcome littleness. If and only if they could accept the littleness of a child, could they accept the real Jesus. Welcoming Jesus means welcoming littleness.

Jesus likened Himself to a child who stands powerless in the face of threats and maltreatments. As the child’s protection should always be the child’s parents, Jesus’ only defense was His Father. Jesus placed His trust not in power, wealth, influence, prestige, arms, and tactics, but in God His Father alone. And when His passion and death actually came, Jesus did not withdraw this trust: “Father, into Your hands,” He cried out as He breathed His last, “I entrust My Spirit.” On the cross, Jesus appeared powerless and little because of this trust. He still does to the world until today. However, unless His disciples – then and now – welcome this powerlessness and littleness, they never really understand the way of Jesus.

Therefore, Jesus Himself challenges us who call ourselves His disciples.

First, welcome the little and value the weak members of our community. We can find Jesus in them. Be more compassionate to those who cannot repay us any debt of gratitude. Jesus does not only share in their vulnerability; Jesus values their vulnerability even more.

Second, do not be anxious if we do not have the kind of power that the world gives. Do not be afraid to come down from positions of power when it is needed or when it is already time to step down. Never be intoxicated by power. Never forget that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. At all times, place your self-worth and security in God. He is your Dad. Trust Him. Abba loves you more than you know.

In the gospel today, Jesus traced the road to Jerusalem, and we know fully well what welcomed Him there. His own vulnerability exposed Him to those who wanted Him dead. People manipulated His goodness and tested His endurance. In all these, Jesus captured the attention of a world enslaved by inordinate desire for greatness and He inspired models of discipleship in countless of His followers. Today, He invites us, as He invited His disciples two thousand years ago, to discover anew our relationship with God, a father-child relationship where true openness to each other is not optional and loving trust is never secondary.

The crucifix constantly reminds us that nothing and no one saved Jesus from death in Jerusalem. But, knowing the whole Jesus story, we believe that God His Father saved Him from those who wanted Him left for dead. For on the third day, the Father raised Him to life, gloriously affirming all that Jesus stood and lived for. That is what the Father does. That is how the Father welcomes the trust of the little ones.

Welcome the child, welcome Jesus.

Welcome the child, be like Jesus.

1 Comments:

At 4:55 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

every child comes with the message that god is not yet discouraged of man...

 

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