Sunday homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: HEAVEN IS FOR THE CHILDLIKE, NOT FOR THE CHILDISH
By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
Homily for Sunday September 19 2021
Gospel Reading: Mark 9:30-37
We have gathered around the table of the Lord to drink from the fountain of Divine wisdom. Jesus is the revelation of God’s wisdom. James 3:16 says, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.”
The principles and the principals of the world are opposed to this. The ungodly detests this and they lie in wait against the just, that is those who love it according to the book of Wisdom 2:12. 17-20 (today’s 1st reading).
Last Sunday it was the wisdom of the CROSS and today it is the wisdom of a child. In the gospel, having revealed the kind of suffering he was to undergo to his disciples, Jesus taught them the cost of true discipleship and the way of cross as the only path to his own glorification and victory. It seemed that all Jesus was teaching was falling on deaf ears. The disciples did not understand him. It was either they were thinking that if he was to die, he must surely hand over to somebody who would rule the earthly kingdom that he would establish before dying or when the kingdom of heaven eventually arrives, somebody would be next in rank to Christ. Their thoughts were earth–bound. Therefore, a quarrel arose among them concerning who was the greatest. Jesus surprised them, he brought a child and showed them as a symbol of greatness.
It is paradoxical to equate a child with greatness, given the Jewish traditional notion of a child as the lowliest of all. Similarly, in Igbo socio–cultural setting, little children are the last to receive when something is being shared in the family. Secondly, all menial house chores like washing of dishes after meal are reserved for little children. Children are meant to serve the elders. A man’s worth increases with age. Only elders are invited for serious discussions because they are believed to be embodiments of greatness and wisdom, children are sent away to play. Hence the concept of ‘Ogaranya’ which is basically an elder. The Greek word for child, is ‘paidion.’ It also means servant, one who serves others (The same word the centurion used when he begs Jesus not to come to his house but to say one word and that his servant shall be healed in Matt. 8:8).
By presenting a child and using him as an example Jesus implies that the road to greatness is lowliness and service, like a child.Setting example with himself, he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a random for many. St. Paul tells us that Jesus was raised high above all because he humbled himself and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:6-11). Greatness in Christian terms simply means being servant of servants.
We must resurrect the spirit of the child in us. According to Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst, there are two energies in every man that drive his personality. The first he called “the eternal boy” (puertenis) and the second he called the “old man” (senex). In this theory, something in us wishes to remain a child always in spite of our age. There is in everyone an eternal child which is characterized by quiet dispositions and easy going life, humility and down-to-earth, simplicity, and all of the qualities you may find in a little child. The old man in everyone is characterized by force, motivation, power, bravery, success, ambition and all the like. St. James in the second reading of today draws this distinction between the child-like personality and adult personality. St. James talks the crises of the adult personality in James 4:3 as ungodly passion and avarice as opposed to gentleness and sincerity of a child.
Being childish simply means acting immature while being childlike means being innocent and all positive qualities of a child. Jesus is saying is that we should be childlike and not childish. The irony is that some people who want to be reckoned as great men and women end up being childish. Those who bully others, those who intimidate others with their wealth and positions of leadership are simply childish. Therefore we should strive to wake up all sleeping childlike characteristics of trust, humility, obedience, sincerity, openness to life, forgiveness, tenderness and love. Heaven is for the childlike and not for the childish.