Childlike Trust in the Good Shepherd

8.14.18 Tues. wk. 19 – Ordinary Time.  (II)

Ezekiel  2: 8 – 3: 4

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 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.

        “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.        The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy           Childlike Trust in The Good Shepherd

    †Jesus seems to have a preference for those who are small and defenseless.  “Unless you turn and become like children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven”. (Matt. 18:3-4)   Everybody loves a child, but as adults – what is it that we must do to be like a child – to be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?  Our childhood seems so far away and we seem to have lost so much of our innocence. 

    The childlike is the one who is ‘humble of heart’.  The childlike do not fight to take the highest and most popular places.  Now this may not make sense to a lot of modern parents who start padding their child’s resume’ in preschool.  They want their children to be recognized and to be the best.  To be ‘humble and lowly’ seems to be so anti-cultural.  But we must remember the times in which †Jesus lived.  In ancient times children had no rights, no position and no privileges of their own.  They could be sold by their parents – if their parents thought they were too hard to handle.  They had no rights of their own!  They were at the service of their parents; they were truly lowly and meek.   So, †Jesus – in elevating a child to a different status – was truly anti-cultural for His times.

    This is what we must understand about the Kingdom – about being the greatest in the Kingdom.  Those who do not assert their rights – those who do not think they are better than someone else – these are the childlike.  They are not prideful – they do not seek glory for themselves – because ‘the simple of heart’ know that they belong to God – and they trust in God and are obedient to His will.  They are totally dependent on God and, for them, the Lord is the source of all goodness and of every great gift – every good gift.  They also live in a spirit of perpetual gratitude to God – that’s the childlike – living that ‘Attitude of Gratitude’.  

    But isn’t this the problem?   We listen to these criteria and we ask ourselves: “Gosh – am I going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  I’m nothing like that!”  But fortunately – †Jesus includes in this discourse a solution to that problem of not being so childlike any more.  †Jesus said: “Is it not the will of your Heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost”? (Matt. 18:14)  †Jesus as the ‘Good Shepherd’, will come looking for us – and that is Good News.   If we are lost in our self-importance, our pride, and our privilege – the Lord will look to bring us back to Him.  If †Jesus lives in us who are lost and in trouble how could He not come after us?  He lives within us.  He loves us.  We are the children of the Father whom He loves. 

    We may think we are not worthy of all of this, of God’s grace, because we spent most of our life straying – thinking more of myself.  St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose memory we celebrate today wrote this:  “A way has been pointed out to us and so long as we walk therein we can always obtain God’s grace.  Never must we say that henceforth grace is beyond our reach”. (from: Immaculate Conception

and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe; Br. Richard Arnandez, FSC, trans.; 1977; Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL)   Grace is never beyond our reach – the ‘Good Shepherd’ is never too far away – or we haven’t pushed Him too far away for Him to come back and take us.  Those who embrace ‘Spiritual Childhood’ look to the Lord for their comfort.  They have wrapped themselves in His arms – and they seek to be obedient to God’s will. 

    As the prophet Ezekiel was directed, we must “eat the scroll” with His words written on it.  Those words are: “Lamentation, and wailing and woe”!  That’s because life is difficult – life is a struggle – and there will be crosses and sacrifices if we choose to live God’s will.  But if we choose to feed on the scroll of God’s plan for us, it will be “as sweet as honey in our mouth”.   So let us seek the Lord’s Kingdom first – place our trust in God as a child places their trust in a parent.  Let us share our faith and when we internalize God’s plan for us – He lives in us and we live in Him.  Then we will find – as we lose our life – we will find our life in Christ – the ‘Good Shepherd’.        

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.