YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: Greatness in Being Little
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
After the last Mass one Wednesday evening, a parish volunteer approached me, obviously shaken and at the point of tears. She was holding a baby in her arms. “Whose baby is that?” I asked her. She said, “Father, the mother asked me to hold her baby for a few minutes. She said she is going to the rest room. It is almost an hour now, and she has not yet returned. What shall I do?” I was also shocked. How can a mother leave her baby just like that? At this point, a middle-aged couple was just coming out of the church. I know them for they were regular churchgoers. They had been coming to church to implore God to give them a child.
Seeing the baby, they approached us. I offered to them the baby, which they readily accepted with tremendous joy and gratitude. Their prayers were answered. For that mother, this baby was a burden to her, which she cannot bear. But for the childless couple, the baby was God’s answer to their prayers, a great blessing indeed!
During the time of Jesus – and this still happens until today in many parts of the world – children were considered as nobody. They have no rights, no power, no voice, and no value in society. But that was not how Jesus looked at them. For Jesus, children are not only great blessings but are of supreme importance in the kingdom of God: “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk 10:14-15). Furthermore, in the Gospel this Sunday, the Lord said: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me” (Mk 9:37).
Why did Jesus place a child in their midst? It should be noted that before this, Jesus was teaching his disciples about the necessity of undergoing his sufferings and death on the cross. And the Gospel said: “But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him” (Mk 9:32). Most likely, they heard him very clearly, but they chose to close their minds and hearts to the Lord’s teaching because they were obsessed with something else: they were discussing and arguing about who was the greatest among them. While Jesus was talking about his own struggle to become nothing through his self-offering on the cross, his followers were working out their selfish ambitions for power and shamelessly jostling for position. They were in the midst of a fierce competition, instead of unity and cooperation.
This explains why there is so much trouble and conflict all around us. The famous author, T.S. Elliot said: “Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.” St. James is very clear on this: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice… Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” (James 3:16, 4:1).
So Jesus placed in front of his disciples a small child – somebody who is nobody in society – in order to bring home the point that greatness is not in being first, not in having more, and not in being important. In the example of a child, greatness is in humility, simplicity and total dependence on God. In other words, the child is the clear reflection of Jesus. He is like the little child in relation to his heavenly Father. That is why he said: “Whoever receives one such child as this in my name, receives me.”
In each one of us, there is the adult and the child part. The adult in us is more calculating and security-conscious, goal-oriented and success-driven, ambitious and proud. But the child in us is carefree and daring, more concerned about celebration and cooperation, has less interest on ambition, power and success, and does not think of failure and death. Receiving a child as Jesus teaches simply means to accept the child part of our personality. We do not discard the adult part, but we give chance to the child part to emerge, so that we will be less afraid, less ambitious, but more authentic in our feelings and expressions, and more willing to take the leap of faith to follow Jesus. In this kind of disposition, we learn to let go, and let God!
This is precisely what the Lord is teaching us when he said: “Anyone wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35). We should not be afraid to be last, for we will be the first. We should not be afraid to be the least and the servant of all, for that is the key to true greatness. And let us not be afraid to be like little children, for that is the way to inherit the kingdom of God.
A quotation aptly puts it: “It takes a lot of littleness in order to be great.” Are we looking for happiness and peace? Try what R.H. Benson realized: “To feel extraordinarily small and unimportant is always a wholesome feeling.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City 1422