October 2nd, 2006
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
School of Nursing
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Pictures of their young children are a prized possession of many
proud parents. They value especially the wholesomeness and spontaneity
that children reveal in candid snapshots taken without posing. In
such pictures, children reveal their innocence. They are at an age
where everything around them seems good and beautiful. They expect
and depend on the love and care of their parents. And they respond
to their parents with their love. It is about young children that
our Lord speaks to us in today's gospel reading.
Surprisingly enough the context for these words of Jesus was provided
by a question from his disciples. They wanted to know who would
be the greatest among them in heaven. This question comes up several
times in the gospels, and was evidently a concern of the apostles
and disciples. There is a slightly different account of this scene
in Mark 9: 33-37. There is also the story of the ambition of James
and John as recounted Mark 10: 35-44. When the followers of Jesus
came to believe that he would have a kingdom, they began to wonder
what place they would have in that kingdom. Since they were his
close followers during his travels in Galilee and Judea, they expected
that they would also have a high place in his kingdom. In response
to their question Jesus speaks of the necessity of becoming like
little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is referring not to the innocence of little children but rather
to their dependence on and trust in their parents. Just as little
children depend on and trust their parents, so must the disciples,
and all of us who believe, depend on, and trust in God. Jesus is
telling us that it is only by becoming like little children in this
sense that we can enter the kingdom of God. We must humbly trust
in God in the same way that little children trust in their parents.
The words of Jesus are contrary to what our modern world is telling
us. We constantly hear the call to power and fame and wealth. And
those who attain it are held up as an example for all of us. Humility
is often scorned. But today the words of Jesus remind us that if
we truly want to get to heaven we must listen to him and do as he
bids his disciples on this occasion.
to the writer of this reflection.
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