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Me? A Mere Child?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Peter Clarke suggests that one aspect of being 'like a little child' is acknowledging when we have done wrong.

What were these things the Father was hiding from the learned and the clever, the influential stalwarts of society? What were these same things the Father thought fit to reveal to little children – the insignificant ones? Why did Jesus bless the Father for this seemingly quirky discrimination?

In the verses that immediately precede the passage the Church has chosen for today's Gospel, we read that the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had refused to repent of their sins, even though they had been impressed by the miracles they had seen Jesus perform. These 'know-it-alls' were not prepared to take to themselves, and apply to their own lives, the dominant message of their own Sacred Scriptures - a message that in their own day the Baptist and Jesus himself had made central to their preaching. 

This was a message that called for that repentance of sin which would bring about a radical change in their lives and would dispose them to receive the Good News of the Kingdom. By resisting the call to repentance they had rendered themselves incapable of appreciating and receiving the revelation of the beauty of God's merciful forgiveness.

Much to the relief of Jesus, and by contrast, there were those who were open and docile, seen by him to be mere children. He was not thinking of those youngsters who in our days would be in the early years of their schooling. He would have had in mind those, young and old, who met the requirement: 'Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.' They were the ones who were open to change because of the preaching of Jesus. They were capable of receiving what the Father wanted to reveal to them: that the God before whom all of us must repent of our sins is the one who is 'compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy' (Psalm 103).

Reflecting on my childhood, I am reminded of those times when my parents made it very clear to me and to my brothers that we had misbehaved; that we had to admit to them that we had done wrong; that we had to say to them we were sorry for this; that we must promise we would not do it again; and that we must take whatever punishment they saw fit. I still remember the loving hug of peace and reconciliation I received before going to bed.

St Paul described his own growth towards becoming an adult thus: 'When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child, but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.' I have no problem in recognizing there are childish ways that need to be discarded. I ask myself if there are solid values instilled in childhood that we must retain throughout our lives. They are so vital that we must never grow out of them or grow away from them.

Dare I suggest that as we grow up we are liable to grow out of and away from admitting that we have done wrong, and then of repenting, apologizing and of determining not to repeat our misdemeanours? Dare I suggest we can become so confident in our own integrity, righteousness, or decency that it never occurs to us to admit to man or God that we have done wrong? When this is the case, the need to apologize and seek forgiveness from God and man will be far from our minds. Then we ourselves blind ourselves to the revelation of sweetness and relief of receiving loving forgiveness, human and divine.

Where do we belong? Among the obdurate learned and clever? Or among those who still retain a little of what it means to be a mere child?  


Zechariah 9:9-10|Romans 8:9,11-13|Matthew 11:25-30


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