One of the texts of this day is Matthew 18: 1-7.
The disciples come to Jesus to ask the question: Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
And he grabs a child and says:
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and
become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever
becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
As I ponder this I realize that the only way to become like a child - again - is not easy. We have to undo the layering of messages that we have received since we were children.
- there are times we have been taught to lie to please others and to wear a mask in order to get along
- Anthony De Mello writes that we have been "infected by the desire to become somebody."
- we have been encouraged to imitate others
- we compare and we compete.
And clearly these tendencies are not just in our world and our culture - as 2000 years ago the disciples were trying to jockey for position to be most important and asking the questions about who is the greatest? It seems this is the human condition.
And Jesus comes and presents another way of living. I don't think becoming like a child is being innocent as much as being free to be ourselves and living in trust that all will be well.
without a mask
without an agenda
without fear and anxiety.
And becoming like a child is also living in reality. Not denial, ignorance, or unrealistic optimism.
In her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily Joan Chittister shares this story
One day the Teacher said, "It is so much easier to travel than to stop."
"Why?" the disciples demanded to know.
"Because." the teacher said, "as long as you travel to a goal you can hold on to a dream. When you stop, you must face reality."
"But how shall we ever change is we have no goals or dreams?" the disciples asked.
"Change that is real is change that is not willed. Face reality and unwilled change will happen."
Jesus came and brings us the true lens through which we can see ourselves and others. And we recognize that we are blessed and burdened, saints and sinners, And we are created to receive the love that God wants to give us and give it to everyone. It is that simple and that countercultural and counter our human nature apparently.
I watch Maggie, my 2 year old granddaughter who knows she is loved and who smiles constantly in that awareness. She does not wonder who is Mommy and Daddy's favorite. She does not worry about whether her vocabulary is better than other two year olds. She does not fret about the next meal or whether her clothes match. She is a child.
When we "become like a child" we have to center our awareness on the reality of our own powerlessness to begin with. It is a process of growing in genuine humility. And at the same time we deepen our understanding and experiences (!) of God's presence and power in our lives. I think that is how the child within us is reborn or freed.
I guess that we get to spend the rest of our lives changing - becoming like children. I will end this post with another quote from Joan Chittister
"Spiritual development is a process of continuing conversion.
"What do you do in the monastery?" an ancient tale asks.
"Oh, we fall and we get up. We fall and we get up." the old monastic answers.
In monastic spirituality, we never arrive, we are always arriving."
Mantra for today
CHANGE AND BECOME LIKE A CHILD
this is the thing I most would hate:
to be casually caught
by a pin on a string
and some tired old bait.
rather, may I be causght and held
by your wonderful story