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“Anyone Who Welcomes This Little Child”

  • International
  • September 23, 2012
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Today’s Sunday reading gives us an insight into the way in which Jesus taught his disciples, and led them to an understanding of his mission.

He has already spoken to them about his forthcoming passion and death in Jerusalem, and they are confused and upset. “They did not understand, and were afraid to ask.”

We must always remember that the disciples had joined Jesus in order to improve their prospects, to become rich and powerful. It is true that Jesus stressed austerity and practised it. But they were sure that once he came into his messiahship, hopefully sometime soon in Jerusalem, things would change and they would all stand to benefit. Why, had he not already shared his powers of healing with them, as the result of which “even the demons were subject to us, in your name?”

So as they journeyed on their way to Jerusalem, they argued among themselves as to who was the greatest. Surely there were factions among them, for no one wished to be cut off from enjoying the spoils of office which would come their way.

Jesus knows what’s going on in this little group. Patiently he insists once again, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself the last and servant of all.” And suiting words to example, he takes a little child, places him in their midst, and with his arms around the child says, “Whoever receives this little child in my name, receives me…”

Not so long ago, he had sent his disciples out on mission with these very words: “Whoever listens to one of my disciples, listens to me.” Jesus was quite aware that his disciples were not learned or erudite, like the scribes and Pharisees, when he sent them forth. The sole motivation for listening to the disciples was the authority of the Master who sent them. The crowds were asked to place their trust in them, disciples, even as Jesus had trusted them.

Jesus presses his point further: learn from this little child to be trusting and transparent to each other, not scheming and manipulative. A child is the least member of the family. You too, each of you, must consider yourself as the least, not as a boss. Do not see the other as a rival, but rather become servants and helpers to each other.

Hard words, tough words. It would take a long time before his disciples could accept this teaching from their Master.
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