This summer we’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time with our five grandchildren who range in age from 11 years to two years. Children can teach us so much about ourselves if we are willing to take the time. It is hard for me not to list off all the qualities I’ve observed in them as I reflect on today’s Gospel. I wonder, was that the answer the disciples were expecting to their question about who was the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven? “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven” (v.3).
Children see so much that we miss in our surroundings; they will see the bug on the ground and delight over it. They are loving and quick to hug. They operate from a different rhythm and force me to slow down. They are much less interested in the tasks I need to get accomplished and respond to time spent playing, talking, or reading with them. They are not so interested in our worldly status rather they judge on kindness and accept us as we are. They delight in the simple things and have the innate ability to know authenticity when they see it. They are weak and vulnerable, totally dependent on the adults in their life to keep them safe. They are naturally trusting. Whatever happens in their childhood can frame how they view and live their adult lives. Rituals matter to them.
In the book, The Spiritual Child, author Lisa Miller Ph.D. suggests from her research that children are born hardwired for a relationship with God. I wonder if their very best quality is their ability to be taught, to learn. They are like sponges always ready to learn. Humility tells me that I have more to learn, that I do not yet know everything. As adults, we can fall prey to the idea that there is nothing more to learn in life. Our life is constantly speaking to us but are we listening?
The Gospel takes a turn in v. 10 and the focus switches to the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus warns us not to despise “one of these little ones…for.. their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” The Greek in little ones is not the same term used earlier in referring to children. Rather, it has been translated as weak(er) ones. Then we are presented with the parable of the heavenly Father going in search of the one who is missing from the 100.
In the context of the last few weeks with three mass shootings, this parable makes me wonder how we lost those men. What happened to them that led to the violent taking of precious lives?
It is very distressing and complex when I attempt to view this on a national level, it feels helpless and hopeless. Yet, Moses reminds us in our first reading from Deuteronomy that “God marches with us and he will never fail us” (v. 6). Each of us has been called to do something to make our world a better and more loving place. We may not be called to great things like Mother Theresa or Dorothy Day yet, our life must inform us as to that call. What is your life saying?
Lord, keep us listening to your voice in our lives. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.