Tuesday, August 11, 2015 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Saint Clare, Virgin
Holy Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14 The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”
Meditation: This passage of the gospel is surprising to many. Who would have thought that the disciples would ever have an ego problem, let alone discuss with Jesus who is the greatest? Think about it – are we not guilty of having done the same thing at one or more times in our own lives? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be inbred in us, and can raise its ugly head at times. Who doesn’t cherish the ambition to be “somebody” whom others admire rather than a “nobody” who gets lost in the crowd? Even the Psalms speak about the glory God has destined for us. You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5). And so we might meditate on what kind of glory do we seek. Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God. What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. It is customary, even today, to seat the guest of honor at the right side of the host. And so who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart; the one who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant and child before God. The simple of heart know that they belong to God, for he is their father, teacher, and provider; he is the one who shows them the way of peace, joy, and life everlasting. They are content to recognize their total dependence on God who is the source of all goodness and every good gift.
Prayer: O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Jesus’ story about a lost sheep tells us much about God and his kingdom. Shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God (Luke 15:7). Those who seek after the lost are needed more than ever in today’s “me, myself and I” world. Do you pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?