The Littlest Apostles
"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 ... it is not
the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little
ones be lost."
(St. Matthew 18:9-)14
Jesus and the children!
often, implicitly or explicitly, Jesus invokes children as exemplars
in God's Kingdom. So much so, in fact, that He admonishes
us against despising any of them in their littleness.
is likely that you have heard many sermons, read many reflections,
on the verse that
become as little children, we shall not enter into the Kingdom"
(St. Matthew 18.3);
that Christ is not asking us to simply "go out and play", or to
speak in the vernacular of children.
have listened and we have yawned. "Of course".
know the unfeigned love and simple trust of children. It touches
us (or ought to touch us) deeply. We are indicted by it in our "adult"
love that is largely mathematical in nature and a matter of
quid pro quo, a giving and an expected receiving, a balance
between self-giving, that is more often a fulcrum leveraging our
own advantage. A child most often gives without counting, loves
as a matter of spontaneity, and not measure. Children are terrible
at math. Thank God. They know nothing of fulcrums and levers and
the like, of using their love to ends other than love.
do. We adults. And the children shame us, remind us of something
clear, untainted, uncalculated, that we instinctively recognize
as something we have lost, and we lament it ... even as we esteem
ourselves too wise to return to that innocence.
are motivated by a child's loving trust. It moves us to be greater
than we are, to go beyond our narrow interests – to enact
the fulfillment of that trust, of what is anticipated of us by the
child — to something noble and good within us.
is why we are not to despise them. They call us, in their littleness,
in their uncalculated love, in the simplicity of their trust,
to become the image of God. Of goodness. Of responsiveness
to love and trust.
is also why they are our exemplars. They are the unwitting Apostles.
They proclaim an invincible, an incredibly powerful evangel that
only God can proclaim through them and it is His: love, trust, God.
Be good. Do not deceive. Throw away your calculator. Expect what
you ask for in love. Accept what is denied you in love.
this world of politics and primacy and power — this is our
world ... the world of adults. And we've made quite a mess of it.
I cannot think of one child who has screwed up the world, and not
made it more beautiful for his or her presence. Unfortunately, by
our example they become like us — when Jesus tells us that by their
example we should become like them!
all, their very Angels behold the Face of His Father in Heaven.
Yours ... well, ours ... may well be hiding in shame, not because
they have failed Him, but because we have failed them.
Angels? No, no! The children!
Boston Catholic Journal
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