My Dear Sisters and Brothers.
The image of Jesus embracing a little child is very much contemporary. In the recent history of the Catholic Church we have witnessed some Divine interventions which have marked and impacted Catholicism. I would like to focus on two Divine interventions. They are Lourdes and Fatima. Both places have common elements. The first is that the message of God was delivered by our Blessed Mother. The second is that the people who received the message were children. Bernadette Soubirous who saw Our Lady in Lourdes was 14 at that time. In Fatima the children were even younger. Lucia was 9. Francisco was 7. Jacinta was 6. Like in the Gospel Jesus chose little children from poor families. Why didn’t he choose some influential and powerful Catholics instead? Surely they could do much more to promote and spread the message than impoverished little children. Still Jesus chose to send his Mother to the little ones because, we, the grown-ups in the Church, are still like the Apostles in the Gospel. We still argue who is the greatest or who should be in charge. We even have introduced new arguments, like left wing Catholics and right wing Catholics. We have introduced terms like conservatives and liberal Catholics. An Oblate, Fr Francis George, who served as Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago in US once said that we had introduced into the Church a secular mentality of conservatives and progressives and now we are surprised that we are as divided as the politics are.
The image of Jesus embracing a little child is very much contemporary and life-giving, like it was for the Apostles who gathered in the house of St Peter. They were following Jesus but they began forming a bubble where Jesus’ words meant nothing. That’s why they said nothing when Jesus questioned them about their arguing. However Jesus wanted his disciples to live in his world of God rather than having the Apostles living in a bubble, in a parallel world defined by worldly mentality. When we read the New Testament we discover that eventually Jesus burst that bubble the Apostles were creating. The worldly mentality the Apostles tried to accommodate to their discipleship was replaced by the mentality of serving and laying down their lives for Jesus. The Apostles who were arguing about their importance eventually accepted death for the sake of Jesus.
Left wing and right wing will not advance the Church. Childlike trust and openness to Jesus will. As we are approaching the Plenary Council let me bring up a few verses from the song which has been composed for our Diocese to inspire us during this Plenary Council Journey:
‘Holy Spirit come, Holy Spirit come, that we may listen humbly, that we share with passion. Holy Spirit come, Holy Spirit come, that we may listen humbly, that we share with passion …. without fear.
Come Holy Spirit; open our hearts to the needs of the Church in our time.’
My Dear fellow Catholics. Lourdes and Fatima were places where the little children were given prominence. However they haven’t been turned into a playground or a skate park. The places, and even more importantly the Divine messages from these places, have been drawing people together.
What happened in the house of St Peter in Capernaum, what happened in Lourdes and Fatima, has been a lesson, a message, a homily for us. May the Holy Spirit help us to take it in.