The days of winter Ordinary Time are fast coming to a close. Ash Wednesday is next week!
But today’s readings provide a good primer for the coming season of Lent – some insights to help clear the spiritual landscape for this upcoming important season.
We continue to hear from the letter of James – a New Testament letter filled with a lot of practical Christian wisdom. Today we are reminded that we can always find a way to pray no matter our life circumstances. We are especially reminded that the whole church should pray for the sick. In the midst of Christian life, it is always those who are most in need and most vulnerable who should be at the Church’s center of attention.
And of course – the Church is you and me – all of the baptized!
The Gospel speaks to us about the importance of vulnerability too, but in a different way – focusing on the children gathered around Jesus – and his reminder to be like a little child in order to enter God’s Reign. Or to put it another way, we need to be aware of our vulnerability and limits, so we can understand how to see with love, as God sees.
Today, children all over the world are often in the most vulnerable of situations. Whether it is through neglect, being orphans, or through terrible crimes like abuse or human trafficking, children are often as vulnerable today as they were in the time of Jesus. We often hear one of the most important parts of the Jewish law from the Old Testament is to care for orphans – otherwise no one else would. They would fall through the cracks in our society. Even today, children have borne a lot of suffering during the current pandemic – due to illness, disruption to school and community life, and so much more.
In Jesus’ time, it was not much different, which is perhaps why the tender, sacred heart of Jesus is drawn to the children, who simply wish to be seen and affirmed by this great teacher and worker of wonders, as he makes his way through the land of Israel preaching and teaching. While the disciples seek to push the children away, Jesus literally “centers” a child in their midst. Today Catholic social teaching likewise reminds us of our personal and social responsibilities to care for children – from before birth through their access to education and through the most formative period of their lives. When we center the vulnerable in society, our church teaching reminds us, we help build a better world for all.
And of course, spiritually, we are reminded by today’s Gospel to make sure our own disposition is one of open humility before God. Jesus reminds us we can be confident that even in a society which may not always recognize our value, or the value of those on the margins, God does and promises to act on our behalf.
When we finally learn the lesson of Jesus, we enter into solidarity with children in need, with those who are sick and in need of prayer for healing, and with all those who society pushes to the margins, but whom God always places “in the center.”
As we prepare for Lent, let us consider how we are open to those most in need and how we ourselves place our own needs before God in openness and confidence. Let us pray for the eyes to see how God sees, and so enter into God’s way of thinking – in joyful awareness of our own status as God’s beloved children.
God give you peace!