Because today’s gospel talks about children, I’d like to begin by sharing with you a number of thought-provoking quotes.
Alex Haley said: “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”
Dr. Seuss: “Adults are just outdated children.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “The soul is healed by being with children.”
Joseph Joubert: “Children need models more than they need critics.”
Oscar Wilde: “The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”
Charles Dickens: “It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.”
Tom Robbins: “It's never too late to have a happy childhood.”
Some people go to great lengths to become holy. Some go on pilgrimages. Some retreat to life in a monastery. Some take up fasting and penance, and long hours of prayers. All this is good. But in today’s gospel, Jesus seems to be showing us a shortcut.
Isn’t holiness is a matter of having Jesus more and more in our lives? In today’s gospel Jesus says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.” Becoming holy, having Jesus, comes by welcoming a child, children, into our hearts.
When parents welcome children with love, they receive Jesus.
When teachers receive children with love, they receive Jesus.
When people care for homeless children, they care for Jesus.
When people protect children from human trafficking, they protect Jesus.
When people rescue refugee children, they rescue Jesus.
When we treat all children with tenderness and respect,
we respect Jesus.
This echoes what Jesus said in chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s gospel. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people you do to me.” Children offer grown-ups an opportunity to serve Jesus.
Remember the story in Luke’s gospel (chapter 12) about Martha and Mary? Jesus was visiting them. Martha was busy in the kitchen doing many things, while Mary was at the feet Jesus listening to him. Both were about hospitality.
Parenting and teaching children require doing many things, like Martha. A lot of time and energy is spent to feed, clothe, educate the young. But the story reminds us that hospitality also involves listening. We need to remember that simply listening to children is a very important way of showing them love. They have dreams and hopes, fears and worries, and they want to share them with us. And again, by listening we receive Jesus.
Speaking of children, we had a memorial Mass yesterday for Mrs. Frances Maggio. For those of you who don’t know her, she taught in our school for fifty years. She taught art, she taught science, she prepared children for the sacraments, she trained altar servers, she taught sewing to the girls, she even taught automotive mechanics to the boys. And she served many years as school nurse. She was a true blessing for our school for half a century. Yes, there are saints among us.
The presence of ours school proclaims that we are living out today’s gospel. We receive and serve children, and in doing so receive and serve Jesus. His mother is well pleased!