Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in my name, receives me.
See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven continually see the face of my heavenly Father.
What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he ﬁnally ﬁnds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray. It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven doesn’t want even one of these little ones to perish.
In his great epic poem Paradise Lost, the 17th century English poet John Milton has Satan say at one point: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven” (Bk 1, line 263). This statement encapsulates the essence of Satan, which is pride, supreme self-centeredness.
Not surprisingly, God is the very opposite. The Trinity is a trio of Persons who live only for the other Two. That is why God can be said to be the humblest Being in the whole universe. Not only does He “empty himself” and become a mere human being (Phil 2:7), but He kneels before His creatures and washes their feet (Jn 13:1-11).
That is why, not surprisingly again, Jesus in today’s gospel reading presents us a child as the model of our Christian life. Why? Not because the child is innocent (a romantic myth created by the West) but because, in the culture of 1st century Palestine, the child is aware of having no social value. It is worthless; it has no achievements to boast of; it is a nobody. When we stand before God with a child-like awareness of our having nothing we can call our own and yet with a complete trust in our heavenly Father, then we are true sons and daughters of the humble God, the God who is pure gift of self.
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