Daily Reflection
August 19th, 2000
Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13, 30-32
Psalms 51:12-15, 18-19
Matthew 19:13-15

"Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Hearing how Jesus welcomed children seems warm and wonderful to us today, but it lacks some of its real power until we realize who children were in his world.  Children had no rights, no standing.  For Jesus to embrace them, to welcome them to come to him, and to declare that the kingdom of God belongs to them, was quite extraordinary.  It must have shaken his listeners.  This scene had the same shocking effect as when Jesus accepted and welcomed other marginal people: sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, those with infectious disease, the handicapped, the poor, all who have to "hunger and thirst" for justice.  Part of the reason Jesus was "altogether too much for them" was that he challenged all the ways in which certain people were kept at the margins of society, of contact.  Some religious people of his day must have said, "Well, he can embrace these people, but I'm sure not going to!"

Who does Jesus embrace and welcome today?  At the margins of my world?  If I reflect enough, I realize or confess, that it shakes me to consider Jesus embracing certain classes of people.  It shakes me because I don't want to embrace or welcome them.  At least, I don't want to think about what it would mean, if I did.  If I try to move them in from the margins, I'd have to advocate for them, defend them, plead for their rights, speak up and say, "The kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

What would it mean for me today, for the way I lead my life, for the choices I make, if I were to embrace and advocate on behalf of those Jesus embraces today?  The unborn?  Already born children, born into poverty?  Not so innocent people on death row?  (For those around the world, we still have capital punishment in the U.S.)  People with AIDS?  Socially unacceptable immigrants?  Native peoples?  Migrant or seasonal workers?  Refugees and displaced people without documentation?  Political prisoners? Racial minorities or socially branded outcasts?  Gays and lesbians?  Persons with mental, emotional or physical disabilities?  The elderly?  Women?  The chronic poor or persons trapped in a permanent underclass?

We may be attracted to solidarity with one or more of these people.  It is likely that we ourselves are in one or more of these groups.  But when our reflection today invites us to see and embrace all of these people, we draw very close to the heart of Jesus.  And we come very close to a sense of  the kingdom of God.  It belongs to those who depend upon the embrace of Jesus. 

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