Welcoming the Little Children

Mark 9: 30-37
Sir 2: 1-11/ Psa 37

Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me but the One Who sent me.
(Mark 9:37)

Blessed are the poor and the meek,
Unlike the proud, God hears their call.
Those who serve the small and the weak
Are in God’s eyes greatest of all!

They left that place and traveled through Galilee. But He did not let anyone know where they were. He was teaching His disciples, telling them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it. They came to Capernaum, and once inside the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom He placed in their midst. Then, taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me but the One Who sent me.” (Mark 9: 30-37)

Reflection

There were three things that our Lord Jesus was intent on accomplishing in the three years of His ministry: spreading the Good News of salvation and the kingdom of heaven, healing the people from disease and the dominion of Satan, and forming the spiritual character of His followers, especially His apostles. This last was the most important as He was leaving the formation of His Church to them. This was the reason why there were times when our Lord did not want the crowds to know where they were, to give Him precious time to teach them, especially about His mission.

The task of making the apostles understand His mission and vision was not going to be easy, as they seemed to have a different mindset about what being successful in life was really all about. In fact, their perspective of becoming a good leader was going in the opposite direction. They could not understand what Jesus was talking about when He said He was going to be killed by men, and “after three days will rise again.” They were afraid to ask, because His dying was a horrifying prospect for them, like a patient fearful of being told by his doctor that he had malignant cancer. Instead, they would rather discuss among themselves who would occupy the highest position when the Messiah finally established His kingdom in Jerusalem. They were like little children, who were more concerned about what they wanted for themselves, but quite innocent about the real purpose that Jesus had called them to accomplish.

A short time ago, they were wondering why they could not drive out an evil spirit from a boy. Jesus had told them that they needed to be more prayerful (Mk.9:29). They had become so self-important about their power to heal and drive out demons that they had forgotten to attribute this power to God through prayers. Their taste of power had made them proud, and Jesus had to remind them about being humble and being “last, and the servant of all.” He showed them His love for the “little ones” by embracing a child in their midst, telling them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me,” and His Father as well.

Who are the “children” that Jesus is talking about? It is those who are helpless and vulnerable, who are weak and underprivileged, who are totally dependent on others for their very survival, even compromising their dignity as human beings. Our new pope, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said he chose the name “Francis” after St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, who was once a rich man, but embraced poverty to become a voice for the poor. At last we have a true servant of God who is opening the doors of the Church to welcome the child that our Lord Jesus is talking about in this Gospel. He said he wants the Church to be “of the poor, for the poor.” Pope Francis is known for his simple and humble lifestyle, and his call for us to minister to the poor may be the most important development in the Catholic Church in this second millennium. Let us heed his call… Who knows? Peace and justice may finally begin to reign on earth.

Father of love and mercy, thank You for Your message of receiving the little people into our lives, as our Lord Jesus has implied in today’s Gospel. Thank You also for giving us Pope Francis, whose leadership in our Church may finally herald the coming of Your kingdom here on earth. May it be so, in Jesus’ holy Name we pray. Amen.

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