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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Learn to be like a child

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

At the time of Jesus, it would have been a great honor to have your children blessed by an important rabbi.  Why then did Jesus' disciples try to prevent children from approaching him?  Perhaps, by their confused logic, if children found it too easy to approach Jesus, his importance would have been in question.

But Jesus would have none of it.  He was not distracted by his own importance.  He wanted people to know and follow his Father's teaching.Therefore, it was important for him to bless children, and to let the next generation experience through him the compassion and generosity of God. Jesus' reaction to his disciples protectiveness is clear: God is never too important or too busy to bless us.  We have only to ask.

In the same way, Christians should be so approachable, especially for the poor,  that we witness to the openness of Jesus.  When we take time for the people society thinks unimportant,  we become good news for others.  Our willingness, even desire, to spend time with "the little ones" of this world, challenges others to reassess their values and their priorities.  When St. Francis kissed the leper, he was transformed. More important, he changed how people thought about lepers.

Br. William Short, an important Franciscan scholar, reminds us that at the time of St. Francis, "Those suffering from leprosy in the thirteenth century lived a radical poverty. They were “dead,” with funeral services celebrated over their still living bodies. Their property was confiscated; their family ties, friendship and social relations were broken. They lived by the gifts of others." (William Short) After the funeral service, lepers were ritually dead and could be treated as objects. That St. Francis treated lepers with affection and love was a radical counter cultural act on his part. Lepers are not dead things. They are people in need of care. 

Take a moment today to think of the "lepers" you've known. Perhaps some of them are in your own family. They are the people others reject, dismiss, even ridicule  to make themselves feel better. Maybe you are the "leper" in your family or at work because you are kind to and defend the rights of immigrants, the poor or the mentally ill.  Remember, when we are open, vulnerable and transparent, like children, the Kingdom of God belongs to us. What more could we ask?

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