The Greatest in the Kingdom

Matthew 18: 1-5, 10,12-14
Ez 2: 8 – 3: 4 / Ps 119:14,24,72,103,111,131

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 18:3)

May we be blessed in words and deed,
And in God’s love be reconciled;
From deadly pride may we be freed,
That we may always be God’s child.

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me . . . See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. . . What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14)

Reflection

The message in today’s Gospel is about humility and simplicity as essential requirements to become children of God. It may seem paradoxical that children, who are weak, vulnerable, and insignificant in the power scale should be regarded by Jesus as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But upon reflection, we realize it is precisely because of their weakness and total dependence on God that they enjoy His protection and providence. As St. Paul said, “I have the strength for everything through Him Who empowers me” (Phil.4:13).

As they are humble, weak, simple and vulnerable, children also represent the poor and the disadvantaged. Jesus wants us to live simply and be totally dependent on God for all our needs. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). God does not expect us to renounce all our material possessions and live a life of poverty. He merely wants us to be “poor in spirit,” to be humble, instead of flaunting our material possessions or be extravagant in our lifestyle. God does not expect us to give away all our resources to the poor. But He does encourage us to be more generous to them, and never to “despise one of these little ones” when they come to us for help. The book of Proverbs is full of such admonitions: “Refuse no one the good when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, ‘Go and come again, tomorrow I will give,’ when you can give at once.” (Prov. 3:27-28). “He who oppresses the poor blasphemes his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy glorifies Him” (Prov. 14:31). “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard” (Prov.21:13). Our Lord Jesus Himself reminds us in the Gospel that “the poor will always be with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them” (Mark 14:7).

Father God, our Savior Jesus has shown us that it is the weak and the helpless who are greatest in Your eyes because You always favor the humble and the little ones. Forgive us for feeling proud in our strength and self-sufficiency, for in all things we will always be dependent on Your power and provisions. Amen.

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