Let’s imagine ourselves into the scene played out in today’s Gospel.
Jesus and His disciples have walked from Galilee to Capernaum, as they walked they talked, talk that turned into an argument that swirled around two possibilities:One was the fear Jesus was heading into danger that would lead to his being put to death.If that happened, who’d be in charge when He was gone?
The other was their hope that Jesus would come out on top and crush both Caesar and Rome with all its military power and wealth, and the corrupt, violently ruthless dynasty of Herod.If that happened, who’d get a position of honor in Jesus’ court?
Even though it would have been hard to not hear,Jesus acted like He wasn’t able to pick up the details, and so, when in the privacy of the house, He asked, “What were you arguing about?”
No one spoke up; they didn’t want to tell Him.
So, He sat down – an immediate sign that Jesus had another lesson to teach them, for in that day Hebrew teachers and rabbis – which His disciples called Him, sat down to teach.This time He didn’t begin with words; instead He started by taking a little child, which He put in front of them,and took and cradled in His arms.Then He spoke “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Remember what Jesus is saying about a little child, He was saying to His disciples, big people, adults, like us!
“This is how one achieves greatness in God’s sight” – by welcoming the children among you and the child in you,
by not outgrowing seeing yourself as a “little child.”
It is good they were in the privacy of a house and not outside in the hearing the teachers and recorders of Hebrew law, the scribes and Pharisees, who taught children belonged at the bottom of the list where they stayed until they were 12, the age that qualified girls who were taught the Law in the home and boys in the synagogue school, and then be received as a son or daughter in the covenant God had made with Moses.
Even Christians held to the same order that put children at the bottom.John Pilch, a professor of theology, reports that the thirteenth century Dominican priest, Thomas Aquinas, who formulated theology for the Church at Rome, taught:“in a raging fire a husband was obliged to save his father first, then his mother, next his wife, and last of all his young child" (The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle B).
Outrageous! Scandalous! That Jesus singled out and cradled a little child to say to full-grown adults, to big people, to us:His followers and God’s family are to see true greatness in a “little child,” and never outgrow living in that relationship with God and with one another.
Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus, with a child cradled in His arms became a lesson in the greatness of a little child’s trust, a quality Jesus’ followers retain into adulthood, as seen in the first Christians when Rome hunted them down to imprison and often kill them,and now seen in Christians who are being put to death in Syria and other Middle East and African countries,and you when bearing the weight of a personal crisis or a burden carried for someone else.
The quality of a little child’s trust, seen in the adult who clings to God’s promise read in the Letter to the Hebrews: (13: 5-6) “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
And those who feel so vulnerable, so powerless, so much like a first century and 13th century child, say, “’The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’I am an adult who is like a trusting child cradled in confidence of the embrace of Jesus whispering to me, “I am with you always.”
“Second Childhood according to Jesus”
Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus, with a child cradled in His arms became a lesson in the greatness of a little child’s need to be loved and to make that a gift shared with others; a cradling embrace that became the mark of Jesus’ followers, which Tertullian reported had the Romans saying of late 3rd and early 4th century Christians (with his comments added): "Look, how they love one another" (for they themselves hate one another); "and how they are ready to die for each other" (for they themselves are readier to kill each other). “See how they love one another!”
God’s love for us, passed on to others.
My Mother would suffer with earaches when she was a young girl. As she whimpered with pain her grandfather picked her up, cradled her in his arms and blow his cigar smoke into her ear; a treatment that would cause doctors to cringe today. My Mother later admitted it was her grandfather’s embrace that comforted her, a cradling love which my Mother when an adult made her ministry to others.
“Second Childhood according to Jesus”
Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus, with a child cradled in His arms became a lesson in a little child’s worth in His, which in turn was God’s sight? The blessed assurance that no one was or is born to be a first-century or 13th century child, a status some would impose on others for life., No one is to measure adulthood as striving for and attaining “greatness” in the eyes of the world.
With the sight of a child in Jesus’ welcoming arms, that social order was and still is turned up-side down!
Pablo Picasso took art in a very different direction which some when viewing say it looks like it was painted by a child. He thought so too. When looking at an exhibit of children’s drawing Picasso said,
“At their age I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a life-time to draw like them.” (Quoted from
“Proclaim Sermons” Sept. 20, 2015
When Jesus took a child in His arms, He was painting a picture of worth that – in God’s family – yes, and let’s say what needs to be said,“in Jesus’ Church,” qualifies each person to be a potential masterpiece deserving of being welcomed by us as one of God’s children, endowed with a God-given worth, greatness bestowed by God,
a truth carried into adulthood that never forgets true greatness is to be forever cradled in the nail-scarred, hands of the Easter Jesus.
Jesus, Who judges us to be a work of art, when as an adult we have not lost or abandoned the child-like colors of trust, a need to be loved and to love, and a God-given worth, sealed with Jesus’ cradling Baptismal mark: “Child of God, disciple of Christ, member of His Church.”
“Second Childhood according to Jesus” AMEN. ,