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Maintain Touch with the Spiritual Child Within

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(09/20/09) Power, prestige, and unhealthy ambition can stifle our serving others.

Join me now, friends, as we follow the disciples' southbound, roundabout journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Jesus has just finished telling his intimate followers that he will be persecuted, killed and then rise from the dead. Such a remark frightens his disciples. They're could well buy into the Master's teaching about the Kingdom of God which he expressed in stirring, striking parables But they were afraid to consider what Jesus was now telling them and tried to brush it aside. Instead they started speaking about which one of them, the disciples of Jesus, was the most important leader in Jesus' opinion of them. Let your imagination soar as we listen into their conversation about prestige and ambition.

Andrew bursts out laughing at his brother, Peter.: "Come off it Peter. I saw Jesus before you did." Peter grunts: "Okay, but remember he gave me the keys". Philip then butts in: "All well and good, but don't you remember when Jesus had to face that catering problem in the desert. He turned to me for advice and I brought a young boy with loaves and fishes to him." James interrupts: "Don't you guys forget: Jesus took me - as well as John and Peter up the mountain to meet Moses and Elias." The rest of you guys ain't seen nothin'. Judas chimes in: "Gentlemen, let the Treasurer have a word. Jesus gave me the moneybox. And if you've got the money, baby, you've got it all. Let's face it: 'no money, no Manischewitz." These young disciples at that stage in their journey were not exactly "role models" for us. Yet, you and I, "disciples of Jesus in process" can well ask ourselves if we are role models of Jesus for others." Physically they were with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem where he would die, but "spiritually" they were far from him.

The group trudges after Jesus into the house at Capernaum. With eyes of love Jesus questions them: "What were you all just speaking about on the way home?" Abashed, they take the easy way out and remain silent. Jesus, ever the teacher, asks them: "Do you realize what it means to be number one, to be first?" He then lifts up a child-perhaps a little girl with coal-black eyes and a runny nose-and gently places her right in the midst of those big disciples of his. He continues speaking: "To be the first is to be the last of all and the servant of everyone else." He then places his arms around the little girl and looks at her with eyes of love: "Receive one child such as this in my name and you receive me." The "me" is Jesus himself, an adult. Receive me and you receive not me, but the One who sent me."

Jesus is teaching his disciples the child-like qualities his disciples should have. Jesus, the Servant-Leader, teaches us that genuine greatness consists in serving others. In Jesus' time a child had no social standing. As child was someone without power, prestige or importance. He encourages his disciples to serve those without power, prestige or importance. If you and I as disciples of Jesus follow the example of Jesus, then we too must in some way despite any prestige or possessions we might have prevent them from blocking us in our service of others-especially those without power, prestige or importance.

Using the example of a child Jesus has silenced his adult disciples. In order for an adult to be a disciple of Jesus the child must live within the adult. Recall Jesus saying on another occasion: "Unless you become like a little child you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We can follow the example of Jesus himself and see ourselves in relationship to his Father and ours. Let's tease out -even spell out --what this involves. To be a child as Jesus understands this, means learning to say 'Father". Pope Benedict writes:

"If we are to grasp the full weight of this word "Father," we must remember how Jesus understands his own sonship (his own being a son). . . Benedict examines the beatitude "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk. 6:20). He writes: ". . . a child possesses nothing of his own. He lives from others, and he is free precisely in the fact that he has neither power nor possessions." Benedict does not ask us to throw away our possessions---rather, he encourages us not to be imprisoned by them. . . .and like a child to be free.

For Jesus being a child (as Jesus was) means learning to say "Father" or "Abba". . . . Jesus made a gift of himself to his Father and to you and me. He continues to make that gift of himself in Eucharist to his Father and to you and me. In Eucharist He thanks God his Father, the source of all giving. In Eucharist he thanks you and me, the poor sinners who are willing to receive him. Pope Benedict also points out: Being a child means learning to say "mother". . . From the maid of Nazareth he learned to pray to his Father, "Be it done to me, O Father, according to your word. In growing as his disciples may we learn to do the same.

We have the gift of wonder in childhood, but "we all too easily lose it as we grow older and become Immersed in our daily concerns; and so, unless we are very careful, not beauty only but life itself passes us by. For inevitably life loses its meaning when it loses its mystery.

Read other homilies by Father Paul