At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “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. “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
The Gospel today presents Jesus speaking clearly and directly, leaving little room to argue over his words: “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones.” Caring for a child, who has little to no social standing in his society, is Jesus’ way to greatness, and he does not complicate this message. Feasibility, returns, and personal risk do not measure the depth of his concern and compassion for the wronged. Not only does he instruct us to be like him and care for the least in a way that magnifies their humanity, he also asks us to be like him and see the world from the perspective of the aggrieved.
Though direct, Jesus’ instructions today might rightly unsettle those who hear it. He asks much from us, but he also truly offers a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
—Joe Wotawa, SJ, is a scholastic of the USA Central and Southern Province completing his theology studies at the Xavier University Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.
Take, Lord, and receive
All my liberty,
And my entire will –
All that I have and possess.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
All is yours, dispose of it
Wholly according to your will.
Give me your love and your grace,
For that is enough for me.
—Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola
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