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.
Most people spontaneously associate childhood with innocence. And, in a sense, they are right, because children do not murder or rob banks or embezzle funds or commit arson. But they demonstrate all the bad traits of adults, only on a much smaller scale. They can be coldly cruel (v.g. by torturing animals), mendacious, selfish, bad-tempered, prejudiced, discriminatory, etc. And so, when Jesus sets up a child as a model to imitate, he is not thinking of a child’s so-called “innocence.” This is a sentimental notion of the West, not a notion entertained in the Near-East.
But what children all have in common is their utter dependence on adults for their well-being and even for their very survival. They have no illusion on that count. They know they are powerless, and they acknowledge it constantly. That, Jesus tell us, should be our own stance in reference to our heavenly Father. Without him, we can do nothing. To become aware of it and to acknowledge it in complete humility is to achieve real greatness in the eyes of God. “Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
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