Blazing a Child-like Path to the Kingdom
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
We’re reminded once again in today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14) that service trumps status in the Kingdom of God and striving to attain a child-like humility is the key that opens the door to the Kingdom.
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” We’ve talked in fairly great length about the difference between a “childish” faith and a “child-like” faith and the importance of shunning the former while pursuing the latter. What’s of equal importance to reflect upon in this passage however is the way in which children were viewed at the time in which Matthew’s Gospel was written.
Much has of course changed with regard to the way in which our society views children, the most precious of God’s gifts. Children during the time of Jesus were in fact considered a liability, just another expense to incur until they grew up and were able to “produce.” Did you know that if a child was to become seriously ill during this time period, they were often abandoned and left to die? Unconscionable in today’s day and age but a societal norm in the days of Matthew’s Gospel. So when Jesus placed such a premium on the value of a child’s life, as he did time and time again, it was a revolutionary message.
Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the good shepherd who goes out in search of the one lost sheep, even if it means temporarily leaving the other 99 in grave danger. This too was counter to the message of the times. Imagine even today if you managed a team of 100 people and there was 1 team member who was struggling mightily. Instead of firing this employee, you take the time to help him or her, and in doing so, the project misses its deadline and goes drastically over budget. What kind of performance appraisal would you receive at the end of the year? Would you still even have a job at the end of the year?
Time and time again throughout the Gospel, we are reminded that God’s ways are not man’s ways. But this is not to say that role models do not exist.
Today for instance we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Maximillian Kolbe, a Catholic Priest held prisoner in Auschwitz during World War II. During his detainment, a prisoner from Father Kolbe’s barracks escaped, and in retaliation the Nazi guards picked out ten other prisoners at random for execution. When one of those chosen protested, claiming that he was a married man and the father of a family, Father Kolbe stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest; take me and spare this man.”
Tomorrow we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a young woman who, in declaring herself the handmaid of the Lord, said yes to God’s will and in doing so changed the world.
May we all grow in the same strength, courage, patience and wisdom as we seek to walk the path that our Lord has blazed for us.