“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me” (Mt 18:4-5).
Children during the time of Jesus were seen, if at all, to have little worth, vulnerable, completely dependent on their parents, and little, if any, status in society. They were under the radar, nothings, nobodies. Jesus invites a child to be in their midst as a response to the disciples question as to who would be considered the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus taught his disciples and us that we need to be completely dependent on God our Father, as a small child is totally dependent on his or her parents. What leads us to greatness in the Kingdom of heaven is to turn away from the temptation to curve in within ourselves, resist feeding our ego, and as St Thomas Aquinas taught, we are to resist the cultural lures and substitutes for God: power, pleasure, honor, and wealth. We are to reject the image that we are super men and women that need no one as we strive for complete autonomy and self sufficiency. We are to place our complete dependency and trust in God and rely on him for everything.
Participating in the reign of God is not one of lordship over another, but assuming the humility to accompany and walk along another in their journey. We see this in the reality of Jesus, who as the Son of God entered into our human condition. While remaining fully divine, he became human when through the power of the Holy Spirit was conceived in the womb of Mary, developed through his period of gestation, and was born into our world. As an infant and child he was completely dependent on Mary and Joseph and God his Father.
As he continued to grow, he experienced the fullness of the human condition. He laughed, he cried, he got sick, he was tempted, he felt pain, he experienced heartache, and joy. Throughout his life, and especially during his public ministry, he met people where they were and as they were, he accompanied them and loved them by willing their good and empowered them to actualize their potential and to turn their heart and mind to God.
We are to do the same. Let us resist putting our self interests first, surrender ourselves in prayer to God and give of ourselves in our service to one another. We need to recognize our dependence on God and others. We are not self sufficient and we need to be humble enough to ask for help. Our guardian angels, whose memorial we remember today, are at the ready awaiting our call. When we realize that we are not alone, and experience some supernatural support, we may be more willing to be present and accompany those in our midst as we journey together in this life. We are not alone. May we provide a shoulder to lean on, an ear to hear, a smile, a hug, a voice that speaks for the voiceless, and a soul open to pray with others.
St Mother Teresa embodied the discipleship Jesus calls us to when she picked up that first dying man in the street. She did not ask his religion, was not concerned if he was of a different race or nationality, was not afraid to risk illness or injury by attending to him. She knelt down and was present to him in his time of dire need. May we follow Jesus and St Mother Teresa by placing our dependency in God’s hands and accompany others in doing little things with great love. When we do so, we say to another, you exist, you matter to me.