Today's gospel, www.usccb.org/nab, proposes an issue that can easily divide any group of people. What many readers of this particular gospel may see as the primary message is the issue of pride -- wanting to be number uno. The reality, however, is very different.
What Jesus' message is for all of us is a particular eye-opener. Jesus uses a child to teach the apostles to examine a cultural reality -- the insignificance of children.
Several years ago the world and the Catholic Church were rocked by the revelations about child abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. This painful reality goes back to the days before Jesus' birth. It is a horrific reality in so many different forms throughout the world today. In Old Testament history as well as other writings we learn of the cultural disregard for children. Children were often considered a burden, sometimes too costly to cared for, to be fed.
Jesus places a child before "the wanna be" attitude of some. Here he had chosen "the least" among the community (Mt 25) to teach about a poignant human horror.
Today we are witness to two realities that are related to this Jesus example. Today TV, radio, newspapers, dinner conversations and barbershop "debates" concern health care -- primarily the health care of those not children!
The questions for us are several. How do we react to Jesus' example? Of course most will speak about the care children receive. But consider some statistics at a time when the big yellow buses have returned to the roadways and countless billboards are reminding drivers to be careful especially around schools.
The youngest children are our highest number of murder victims across the land: 1.37 million abortions per year, 3700 per day ... more than were killed on 9/11!!! Why? 93% give as a reason that (a) a child is not wanted and (b) that a pregnancy and resulting child are inconvenient!!!
Think, too, of child poverty -- in this land of milk and honey! Children are about 25% of our general population and 35% of the poor population. Consider how child abuse occurs in so many different guises: pornography, kidnappings and deaths, slave trade.
So, what is in this for us today? Will our adult population speak for the some 47 million without health care? Will we become a people who are revolted by the abuse of children, young people?
Jesus taught the disciples that always evaluating priorities is a must for his followers. When will the real followers take on the care of a child in need, a child rejected? When this happens, we will know that Jesus' words, his examples were taken to heart!
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.