Summary: Truly, to the extent we adopt the humble attitude of a child, we will attain greatness in the kingdom of the Father. But what does that really mean?
Wednesday of 19th Week ink Course 2019
St. Cassian of Imola
Our Lord had a special affection for children, so we’ll learn much about our own filiation from studying what Jesus said to children and did for them. Here we see the Master asking one of His Socratic questions, probably in response to His disciples bickering over who was the greatest. He asks “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He uses a little child for an example. The answer is that unless you and I change and regenerate our child-like attitudes, we won’t be fit for the kingdom of God at all, let alone be acknowledged as the greatest, second only to Christ.
Wow! Most of us have spent time among children. When I’m teaching chemistry and want to help my students imagine disorder, I ask them to think of a kindergarten class when the teacher has been gone for five or ten minutes. Jesus is not asking us to become like unruly children. And our saint of today, St. Cassian of Imola, was a teacher. When, in the fourth century, the representatives of Emperor Julian the Apostate demanded that he renounce his Catholic faith, he refused to do so. So they strapped Cassian to a pillar and made his students stab him with their styluses–the instruments they wrote their lessons on. Jesus is not suggesting that we become like the worst bullies we encountered in grade school.
No, Jesus wants us to become children of the Father as He was and is a child of the Father. And the essence of that childlike attitude, what we should always pray for, is twofold. First, we display absolute reliance on and confidence in the love of the Father for us, His children. That means not worrying about things. Just as good human parents provide the essentials for their children, so does the Father in heaven. That’s the second half of the Lord’s prayer–give us this day. . .
Second, we obey the Father in all things. And we trust that the Father will give every grace we need to accomplish His will. What God did for His Son, Jesus, He will do for us, in every moment of our lives. Whatever challenges we face, whatever opportunities to spread faith we are given, we will confront and even embrace confidently, and gratefully.
So, as Jesus says in the Gospel, to the extent we adopt this humble attitude of a child, we will attain greatness in the kingdom of the Father.
I recall a boxer named Cassius Clay in my childhood–he was later Mohammed Ali when he renounced his Christian faith and embraced Islam. He was a great boxer, but he bragged about it and used his great skills to put other people down, to trash-talk his opponents. His signature line was “I am the greatest.” I’m not going to judge Mr. Clay–that’s between him and God when he was judged. But I will say that in judging myself, I believe behavior such as he exhibited is just the opposite of the childlike devotion and acceptance we see in Our Lord and His disciples.
Just one more observation about the Scriptures gifted to us today. Consider the relationship between Moses and his disciple, Joshua. It was very much like a father-son bond. Moses mentored Joshua and prophetically made him his successor. Joshua, over and over again, did what Moses told him to do. Even after Moses died, Joshua fulfilled the commands that God had given his mentor. So Joshua–a precursor of Our Lord–exhibited a truly childlike attitude. As we read the stories of this great Jewish leader, we should pray that we, too, will have a childlike attitude so that we can accomplish the tasks and become the persons that the Father wants for us.