The gospel tells us that if we want to be Jesus’ disciples we must become like children and consider ourselves the slaves of all. The greatness of a Christian consists in serving others, particularly the poorest. In the Christian community who occupies the first place has to put aside all desire of greatness. The church is not a stepping stone to get to positions of prestige, to emerge, to gain control over others. It is the place where everyone complies with the gifts he has received from God, celebrate their greatness in humble service to others. In God’s eyes, the greatest is the one who most resembles Christ, who is the servant of all (Lk 22:27).
To inculcate the lesson better, Jesus makes a significant gesture, narrated in the third part of the passage (vv. 36-37). He takes a child, places him in the middle, hugs him, and he adds: “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me.”
In the following chapter Mark recalls another episode in which the affection and tenderness of Jesus towards children are highlighted. Some mothers presented their children so that they might touch them. It was believed, in fact, that physical contact with men of God communicated strength, goodness, gentleness and their own spirit. The disciples did not like this too much familiarity and confidence and felt compelled to scold and to ward off the intruders. Upon seeing this, Jesus was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me and don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and laid his hands on them and blessed them (Mk 10:13-16).
In this episode, the children are presented as models to imitate. Jesus invites us to become like them, to enter into the kingdom of God. In today’s passage instead the children are referred to as symbols of being weak and helpless that needs protection and care. In Jesus’ time, as now, the children were loved, but no social importance is given to them.
They did not matter from a legal standpoint. A disciple of Christ is one who, following the example of the Master, takes the children in his arms. A child is the one who is completely dependent on others, does not produce, consumes only, needs everything. He can also cause trouble, does not think as an adult.
It is not easy to embrace one who, at forty, still needs to be assisted like a child, pulls, makes mischief, is rude, impedes the orderly life of others, no commitment. “Hugging” does not mean consent to all his desires, to satisfy his whims and support his indolence, but to educate him, help him grow, to make him become an adult.
There are, in all our communities, children, impure persons, indeed, there is “a child” in all of us. The hug is a gesture that expresses the joyful acceptance, trust, respect, willingness to serve one another, so we feel the need to be embraced by the brothers of our community.
The “holy kiss” (2 Cor 13:12) that we exchange during the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of this mutual and unconditional acceptance. What the master suggests is of course madness for unbelievers.
The first reading shows us that those who choose to follow the wisdom of God, the upright, are a reproach to those who lead lives according to the principles of this world; often, therefore, the upright are persecuted. Persecution is an inevitable event in the life of the righteous. It always affects one who chooses to live according to God. The preacher who does not disturb, does not call into question the structures of sin of the society in which he lives, is hailed and patronized by those in power, perhaps has adopted the mentality of the wicked.
The seconding is linked. The roots of war, hatred, and conflict lies in our refusal to accept the invitation of Christ to serve. Christians who adapt to the “wisdom that comes from above” should not in any way get involved in such disputes. If they really commit themselves to do only what is pleasing to the brothers, it would eliminate the root causes of conflicts.BACK TO LIST