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(…) There are children in the room, playing and fighting with each other, getting in the way, not doing what they are told, tired and crying, hurt and wanting comfort immediately, curious to see and hear what these visitors are talking about. Jesus takes one of these children in his arms and says: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
We have for generations developed out of this scene an understanding of the need for a childlike faith, a picture of silent obedience, of unquestioning love of good parents. This is romantic nonsense, an ideal picture of children as they do not in reality exist, and not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is addressing the silent argument of the disciples about power and authority in the group. It was not enough to suggest that they may help the women with the preparation of the meal. The revolutionary action of Jesus is to take a child seriously as a person who is just as important as anybody else. Children at the time were not people, not relevant, just vague possibilities. The chances of survival of childhood were not particularly high. So why invest emotional strength in relations to children? Think of Oliver Twist as a child in the workhouse having the crazy idea of asking Mr Bumble, the Beadle, for more food. Jesus is giving the child in his arms a voice. The child is no longer “silent” but becomes an equal member of the group just like the individual disciples. The disciples learn that power and authority have to do with giving the speechless a voice, widening our ideas and understanding of God and community. (…)
(Excerpt from the ACF homily on 19th September 2021, the 17th Sunday after Pentecost)