My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Last Sunday Our Blessed Lord presented a child as a model for his disciples. This Sunday Jesus goes further to protect the childlike attitude among his followers: ‘Anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.’
What can a child teach us? What can a child contribute to our practise of faith? There are a number of things. One of them is honesty. Children are not perfect but they don’t pretend to be perfect, at least to a certain stage. In our own faith formation we need childlike honesty.
How would you react if someone came to this church and started throwing dirt at the statue of our Lady? Let me tell you a story from the book I have recently read. A woman was sitting by the hospital bed of her husband who was dying of cancer. Various treatments were given to him but nothing worked. One day the woman went outside and collected some dirt. Then she went to the hospital chapel and started throwing dirt at the statue of Mary. Some people called for security to restrain her but then a hospital chaplain turned up, stopped the security and said: ‘Leave her alone. She is praying.’ The woman obviously tried to be strong for her husband to support him but there was a lot of pain and anger in her. She was hurting. In an unusual way she expressed it. She was honest.
Joshua and John were not perfect but they were honest. They were also open, like children, to learn from their mentors. For Joshua it was Moses, for John it was Jesus. The beloved disciple felt insecure when he discovered that someone outside their group was able to cast out devils while a few days earlier the Apostles failed to do it. What Jesus does is to invite John to see in this outsider a new brother. The outsider was not a threat but a person who had faith in Jesus if he ‘was casting out devils in Jesus’ name.’ Jesus was saying to John: ‘Look there is a bond between two of you. You both have faith in me. John, your faith is not strong yet but there is a brother who can be of help to your faith.’ If John had kept his thoughts to himself his jealousy would have eaten him from within. By being honest and open he saw that their small group of followers of Jesus grew by one that day.
My Dear fellow believers. What would you identify as a prayer you can be sure everyone in this church knows by heart? Wouldn’t it be the Lord’s Prayer? Do you remember how we got the prayer? One day Jesus’ disciples we jealous that John the Baptist taught his followers how to pray, so they came to Jesus and said: ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ They were honest how they felt and they were given the prayer which, after two thousand years, we still love and pray often.
As you pray Our Father pray it like a child who comes to his or her father honest about his or her imperfections but also convinced of the father’s love which can bring good out of imperfections.