9 December, Friday — Being like children

Dec 9 – Memorial for St. Juan Diego, hermit, layman

John (1474-1548) was born an impoverished free man in a strongly class-conscious society. He was a farm worker, a field labourer, and a mat maker. He became a married layman with no children. Even as a pagan, he was a mystical and religious man, and became an adult convert to Christianity at around age 50, taking the name Juan Diego. He was widowed in 1529.

He was a visionary to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Guadalupe on 9 December 1531, leaving him the image known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. On 20 December 2001, a second miracle attributed to Juan Diego’s intervention was decreed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and was approved by Pope John Paul II. He was canonized on 31 July 2002.

  • Patron Saint Index

Isa 48:17-19
Mt 11:16-19

Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.

Being childlike is not the same as being childish or guilible. As I grew older, I wanted to shed more of what made me appear youthful and naïve. At one point, I put on the grown-up cloak of skepticism and cynicism. This, I suppose is why, many young adults in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties are found to have lost the faith of their childhood during this season of their lives. This tends to happen as one encounters the glamour and distractions of the ‘real world’.

It is an interesting correlation that Jesus uses in the Gospel passage: the children shouting to each other in the market place for people to dance to the tune of pipes, or mourn to the music of dirges, are likened to the people speculating from the appearances of John’s neither eating nor drinking as being possessed, to Jesus’ eating and drinking to being a drunkard and glutton (Matthew 11:16-19).

Yet elsewhere, Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3-4). At first I was confused in these two analogies to children.

Perhaps the difference lies in their perception of things. Jesus is referring to the childlike simplicity and trust in the Father’s will and commandments which leads us into God’s kingdom, as the First Reading shows us, ‘I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go’ (Isaiah 48:17). On the other hand in the reading today, he points out to his listeners that the children who were distracted by the heady activity and bustle of the market place, like the attractive toys and gimmicks of the world, began to lose the clarity and perceptiveness of childlike faith to discern what is real from appearances.

How can we then know and separate the reality of God from the reality of the world? First, we have to adopt a mental littleness and lowliness, being trusting and vulnerable to the Lord – allowing Him to change our hearts and give us brand new sight. Second, by this new perception of the affairs of the world, we can begin to see beyond the popular phraseologies and fruits of secularism and relativism – to notice that ‘wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’

And again Jesus says this, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them’ (Matthew 7:15-20).

May we not dwell and remain on the surface of assumed reality, but arm ourselves with the knowledge that the Evil One is a liar, slanderer, who deals in deceit and lures us by our pride. Let us put on the garment of humility, simplicity and virtue, to trust and surrender to our Heavenly Father.

In the wise words of Fulton Sheen, ‘There is a close relation between physical littleness, which is childhood, and mental littleness, which is humility. We cannot always be children, which is another way of saying we can be humble. And so in the spiritual order the law remains ever the same: if human beings are ever to discover anything big, they must always be making themselves little; if they magnify their ego to the infinite, they will discover nothing, for there is nothing bigger than the infinite; but if they reduce their ego to zero, then they will discover everything big for there is nothing smaller than the self. How, then, shall we find the reason behind the joy? Just as it is only by being little that we discover anything big, so it is only by being humble that we will find an Infinite God in the form of a little child.” (Eternal Galilean)

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Help me Lord to love the humble way in which you choose to come into the world. Help me to become more like you, Jesus.

Thanksgiving: Let us ponder on these words as we approach Christ’s birth. ‘Gratitude is characteristic only of the humble. The egotistic are so impressed by their own importance that they take everything given them as if it were their due. They have no room in their hearts for recollection of the underserved favors they received.’ (Fulton Sheen, On Being Human)

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