This Little Child (Matthew 18:1-4)
“At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, 'I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Why were the disciples asking this question of Jesus? The context of Jesus’ response suggests they probably were jostling amongst themselves as to who was the most “together” disciple. It is also probable, that the answer Jesus gave, was not at all what they expected.
They probably expected Jesus’ rendition of ‘The Greatest’ to be the one who, best understood his sayings; or, was the most faithful to his commands; or, worked the hardest; or, was the most gifted; or maybe even, the one who loved the most. But, the fact that they asked the question, guaranteed they were clueless to the response Jesus would give. The Fullness of Truth was still waiting for their minds to be opened by the Spirit of Pentecost.
That the essence of ‘The Greatest’ would not be found among the wise, but rather, in a Little Child, was beyond radical. It was unimaginable. Our future in Christ’s Kingdom was not to be achieved by what we might do for God, but in our openness to what God can do for us. We secure our Grand Destiny by surrendering into Smallness – by wholly accepting the unmerited Love of God, Creator of all that Is.
The celebrated philosopher Descartes, in exploring the nature of reality, surmised, “I think, therefore I am.” His brilliant mind carried him to this lofty conclusion -that thoughts of self-awareness prove the reality of our existence. Yet, Descartes’ grasp of reality pales in the profundity of God’s revealed Truth –that we came into existence by a thought of God; and, that we are sustained in existence, only because he continues to have thought of us. For God cannot stop thinking of what he has created in Love.
If Descartes had the mind of a ‘Little Child’ theologian, he may well have written, “God loves me, therefore I am.” We must become as a Little Child in order to grasp this Truth. For, this is how a Little Child thinks: “Mommy and Daddy cherish me -because I Belong to them, because I share their Name.” Anything other than being the apple of their parents’ eye is inconceivable. The love and devotion of Mommy and Daddy is unquestioned.
In the mind of a child: As long as I am holding the Fingers of Daddy, the path is not dark. As long as Mommy caresses my cheek, the monsters in the closet are powerless. As long as I am held in their arms, no hurt can overpower their comfort. This is the place to which we are being called in our relationship with The Father of All.
Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change….’. In life, our default mission is to ‘grow up’ -to provide for ourselves; to take control; to make our own decisions. Now Jesus upsets our applecart, demanding we ‘become like little children’. Like Nicodemus, we ask, ‘Can I go back into my mother’s womb and be born again?’ And so it is that Jesus beckons us to submit to a heart transplant -to recreate our heart into that of a Little Child. Like all things spiritual, this quest depends upon Faith – not a faith in God, but a faith in God’s Love for us.Lord Jesus, I am because you Love me. Help me to Trust in your Love -that you have only Good in store for me. I believe this, but it is not how I yet live. I want to live according to your Perfect Will for me –to fulfill the Purpose for which you created me. I surrender into the Mystery of your ways. Draw me into the Womb of your Holy Spirit. Re-Create what Sin has disfigured. May I be Reborn into the image of my Father. May I carry your Name knowing that you cherish me. I receive your Embrace now. No hurt or evil can overpower the comfort of your All-Providing Love.