The Gospel according to Luke (9:46-50)
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Opening Prayer: My most merciful and gentle Jesus, I thank You for the many ways in which You come to me, revealing Your love and grace. Please help me to see clearly the ways that I must change, so that even the beginnings of the smallest sin in my life may be rooted out. I love You, my Lord. Help me to love You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Encountering Christ: Today is the memorial day of St. Vincent de Paul so here is an illustration about today’s Gospel and him. St. Vincent de Paul ran an orphanage in Paris during the first half of the seventeenth century. One winter day he opened the front gate to find an abandoned infant lying in the snow. He brought the bundled baby back into the warmth of the room where he was meeting with several wealthy women who helped support the orphanage. Naturally, St. Vincent asked them what he should do with the tiny, frail creature. One of the women suggested that perhaps God intended for the baby to die, as a punishment for the sins of the mother. Appalled at this attitude, St. Vincent angrily retorted, “When God wants dying done for sin, he sends his own Son to do it!” This is grace, mysterious, inexplicable, but touching and overwhelming. It is worth devoting the whole of our lives to a response to this grace.
In today’s passage, Our Lord addresses the disciples after He “realized the intention of their hearts.” This is a very important line. Essentially, Jesus noticed that the desire for boastfulness was just beginning. By analogy, when a weed begins to grow, it is easily pulled up by the roots. But if it is left to grow for a while, then the roots are more difficult to pull up, and doing so often affects the other plants and ground around the weed therefore, it is with sin. By gently bringing a child into their midst and stating that “the one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest,” Jesus was helping them to remove this “weed” of the sin of vainglory before it took deep root in their lives. As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He continues to act with gentleness, addressing their slight error in their reasoning.
This is important to understand, because our Lord always desires to address our sin the very moment it begins. If we are open to His subtle promptings of grace, gently redirecting our actions the moment we begin to go astray, then our attentiveness to His loving rebuke will help keep us from becoming more deeply rooted in our error, whatever it may be. Establishing a practice of constant self-reflection greatly helps with this. Establishing this habit means we do not see our Lord as a harsh and critical Judge; rather, we see Him in His gentleness and care. This image of Jesus gently bringing a child before the disciples to teach them about true greatness should help us to realize that we should never fear these gentle promptings of grace.
Ask the children if they think they have any gifts. They will probably be as confused as adults are when responding to this question. Children know about buying gifts. Place a gift bow on each child’s head and suggest that rather than buying gifts for their parents or new teachers, they try to be gifts to their parents and their teachers. Would someone want to get them as a gift? Help the parents to remember what gifts these children were and are. So … are you (we) a gift to Our Lord?
Closing Prayer: “Our vocation is to go and enflame the heart of men, to do what the Son of God did, He who brought fire into the world to set it alight with His love. What else can we wish for, than for it to burn and consume all things?” -St. Vincent de Paul
Action for the Day: Address the small sins with which you are struggling. Of course, all serious sins must be firmly dealt with first. But once all serious sin is rooted out of your life, be attentive to the gentle and merciful promptings of grace by which Jesus wants to root out every small sin at its beginning and even every spiritual imperfection.