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YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: BE CHILD-LIKE NOT CHILDISH
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
We have gathered around the table of the Lord to drink from the fountain of Divine wisdom. Jesus is the revelation of God’s wisdom. The principles of the world are opposed to this eternal wisdom of God. Last Sunday, we saw the wisdom of the cross that brings crown, suffering that saves. Today, Jesus wants to widen our spiritual horizon with another wisdom from above. The ungodly detests this and they lie in wait against the just as the first reading of today makes clear (Wis. 2:12. 17-20).
In the gospel, having revealed the kind of suffering he was to undergo to his disciples, he taught them the cost of true discipleship and the way of cross as the part to his own glorification. It seems that all Jesus was teaching was falling on deaf ears. The disciples did not understand Christ. It is either they were thinking that if Christ was to die, he must surely hand over to somebody who will rule the earthly kingdom he would establish before dying or when the kingdom of heaven eventually arrives, somebody will be next in rank to Christ. Their thoughts were earthly-bound. Therefore, a quarrel arose among them concerning who is the greatest. Christ surprised them, he brought a child and showed them as a symbol of greatness.
It is paradoxical to equate a child with greatness, given the Jewish traditional notion of a child as the lowliest of all. Similarly, in Igbo traditional parlance, little children are the last to receive when something is being shared in the family and all menial house chores like washing of dishes after meal are reserved for little children. A man’s worth increases with age. Only elders are invited for serious discussions because they are believed to be embodiments of greatness. Hence the concept of “Ogaranya”. The Greek word for child, paidion, also means servant, one who serves others (Matt. 8:8). By this Jesus implies that the road to greatness is the road of lowliness and service. He himself came not to be served but to serve. St. Paul tells us that Jesus was raised high above all because he humbled himself and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:6-11). The greatness in Christianity simple mean being servant of servants.
According to Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst, there are two energies in every man that drive his personality. The first he called “the eternal boy” (puertenis) and the second he called the “old man” (senex). In this theory, something in us wishes to remain a child always in spite of our age. There is in everyone an eternal child which is characterized by quiet dispositions and easy going life, humility and down-to-earth, simplicity, and all of the qualities you may find in a little child. The old man in everyone is characterized by force, motivation, power, bravery, success, and all the like. St. James in the second reading of today draws this distinction between the child-like personality and adult personality. St. James pinpoints the crises of the adult personality as ungodly passion and avarice as opposed to gentleness and sincerity of a child.
Jesus is saying is that we should be child-like and not childish. The irony is that many people who strive to be great men and women end up being being childish. Those who bully others, those who intimidate others with their wealth and positions of leadership are simply childish and not child-like. Therefore we should strive to wake up all sleeping child-like characteristics of trust, humility, obedience, sincerity, openness to life, forgiveness, tenderness and love.