I. Homily – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 20, 2015
II. Jesus embracing a young child.
A. Let us take a moment and imagine this event in our mind’s eye.
B. This is not a difficult exercise. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the source of all love and consolation, putting His arms around a child.
1. Certainly, this child felt no fear held in the arms of Jesus Christ. No. On the contrary, the child likely felt contentment and safety…perhaps a security never felt before.
III. Yet, just moments before, the disciples were confused and afraid to ask this same person a question.
A. Saint Luke tells us, “they did not understand this saying” and “…they were afraid to question Him.”
B. On the one hand, the one most vulnerable, a child, felt contentment and security in those arms and, on the other hand, these mature adults were afraid even to ask a question.
IV. Why were the adults afraid and the child was not afraid?
A. There are a number of possible answers. The first response to this question, might be demonstrated by a recent real life example:
1. About a week ago, I was out on the playground with our first graders and a little girl came running up to me very excited to show me her loose tooth as she wiggled it in demonstration…
2. Of course, I, teasing her, approached her with my fingers reaching out telling her…”Ahhhh, you want me to pull that out for you…”
3. To my surprise, she did not run off but she just stood there and giggled knowing that there was little chance that I would actually remove the tooth.
4. But, as I thought about how an adult would have reacted differently regarding their loose tooth…would an adult have come up to someone…even someone they know and respect, and even show them their tooth if they were not a dentist?
a) I don’t think so. Most typical adults would, more likely, hide the defect so that as few people as possible would see it.
b) I thought, perhaps this is what our Lord meant when He told us that we needed to be like children…we need not be afraid of showing our Lord our defects for He will love us even in the midst of them.
B. Although this may answer the question why the disciples were afraid, it does not explain the point that Jesus was making to His disciples at the end of the Gospel. You see…: Jesus in today’s Gospel did not tell His disciples to be like little children…no…that was Jesus’ point in a different passage of scripture.
1. What Jesus teaches His disciples, in Today’s Gospel passage, is that “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
2. He does not tell His disciples to be like a child but to receive the child in His name and if we do this, then we are receiving Him and receiving His Father.
3. Now, what if the child we are receiving is not just any random child but Christ Himself? Imagine now that it is not Christ holding the child but you holding the Christ Child asleep in your arms.
a) I would imagine most of us have held a small baby…perhaps we have had the opportunity to hold a baby who really likes us, feels safe in our arms and falls asleep on our shoulder.
b) Imagine this for a moment…the Christ Child asleep in your arms on your shoulder.
c) Imagine not you loving the child but the child loving you…this love is a tender, intimate and gentle love…and what begins to happen is that your every action, every word, even every thought, are done in complete and total obedience to the child you are holding.
(1) Yes. I said obedience. When you are holding a sleeping baby, the baby is in charge.
(2) You will do anything and everything you can to make sure that baby is not disturbed…that is, if you are allowing that baby to love you.
C. Jesus’ lesson to His disciples is not about being like a child but about “receiving a child” and, I believe, one particular child.
1. Jesus’ disciples were afraid of what Jesus might ask.
2. He was asking them to allow Him and His Father to love them so much that every word, every action and every thought is the thought of the child, who is Christ. This is terrifying if we do not know Him…if we do not know who that child is…This is terrifying…if we have not received Him…if we have not allowed His love to permeate our lives…
3. …but, if we have received Him into our hearts and souls, it is then that we are strong…then we can say like so many Christians before, “Jesus, I trust in you” no matter what the world has thrown at us…no matter what is happening inside of us.
V. Pope Francis arrives in just a matter of days…what is interesting is that the most vulnerable in our society are not the least bit afraid.
A. There are the poor and the lame…the refugees and estranged…
B. There are others who are increasingly becoming the minority in our nation…and are looked down upon. These are those who believe the words of Jesus to His disciples: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise”…those who believe that our Lord’s Paschal Mystery is truly communicated to us through the ministry of His Church.
1. We believe that we have a loving and merciful Father in heaven who is constantly watching over us…has guided His Church throughout the centuries and has chosen Pope Francis through the power of the Holy Spirit…
2. Pope Francis has already told us what He is going to say:
a) He has told us that He has proclaimed the coming year a Jubilee of Mercy and the motto of this Jubilee “Be Merciful even as your Father is Merciful…”
b) The mission of the Church has been to place our Lord in the arms of her people from the dawn of time and invite us to embrace that Lord.
c) We all know that Pope Francis is not going to change the long held teachings of the Church…but what He will do is remind us that of those strong, loving arms of the Father in heaven.
C. There are those who are desperately afraid…interestingly they are those who think they will lose by placing themselves in the Merciful arms of the Church. Unfortunately, they are also those with the largest platform by which to communicate…they will try to make the Pope’s visit into a purely secular reality…that is, something other than mercy and faith and hope and love…they will desperately try to make this about a political agenda or a philosophical disagreement…or they will seek validation of artificially imposed societal shifts…but do not be afraid…this is about the Mercy of our Loving Father…let us trust our Father in heaven and His Holy Spirit working in the Church.
VI. Let us pray for our Holy Father’s visit. Let us pray for the defense of the family that He is promoting at the International Meeting of Families. Let us pray, asking the intercession of Saint Junipero Serra whom Pope Francis will canonize in Washington, DC. Let us pray for the continued freedom to live our faith as our Lord invites us. Let us pray for those who are in need of Christ’s mercy and love…and let us pray for ourselves that we will receive the Christ child in our arms and allow Him to determine our thoughts, words and actions.
I. Homily – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 20, 2015