A Child Is Simple, He Takes The Last Place

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Pope Francis was in Slovakia this week and visited Mother Theresa’s nuns there who run a shelter for homeless people.  They call the area the Bronx of Slovakia because of the number of drugs in the area.  The local parish priest said there are six or eight nuns there and none of them are from Slovakia.  They go under the bridges to find the homeless and bring them back to their shelter.  They exist only of the donations of food or money that people give them.  It is a great work of mercy that they do there similar to what is done in Newark, NJ and other places around the world.

Jesus takes a child and puts his arms around him saying whoever receives a child like this in my name, receives me.  At that moment in history children had no rights or standing; they could be killed or sold and no law protected them.  It is very different from our understanding today.  They were the last ones, the vulnerable ones.  Jesus goes to the peripheries, like these nuns in Slovakia, to find those in need.  He goes to the back of the room, and takes a child and says to the apostles: they should be like this child, the last one.  They should not be fighting to be the first one!

The essence of being child-like is to be humble, not to expect special treatment or to think we are better than others.  A Christian is one who follows Christ as we heard last week.  He serves the others, and washes their feet.  A child is simple.  He obeys, and if he makes a mistake is not afraid to try again.  This is what Jesus is praising in children.  Often Jesus says that out of the mouth of babes comes perfect praise.  They are full of gratitude.

To be like a child is not to go backwards; it is the opposite.  It means to recover that simplicity that was present in our lives many years ago.  To not be afraid to take the last place.  To have only a few things and to be totally content.

How can we grow in this child-like spirit?  St. James says to pray correctly, not asking for what our passions desire.  To pray humbly and willing to accept what God sends us, not to always desire something else.  To catch ourselves when we see we are competing with the others, trying to be the best.  Even the apostles were that way, but they changed, eventually they gave their lives for Christ.

St. Therese of Lisieux in her short life lived this way.  She left her town only once in her life to go to Rome to ask the Pope if she could enter the Carmelite order at an early age.  She lived very well the idea of finding God by doing the ordinary things of life with love, washing the pots and pans in this way.  We don’t have to go to Africa to serve God; we can do so right here.  Let us ask God to help us to live a simple life here, to be content with what he gives us, and to recover the child-like spirit we had long ago.

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