Saint John Bosco, Priest – Readings

Commentary on Philippians 4:4-9; Psalm 102; Matthew 18:1-5

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

This is the question that the disciples put to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.  Perhaps they had their own ideas on this – the one with the greatest leadership qualities, the most intelligent, the one with the deepest understanding of the Scriptures and the Law, the one most admired in the group … They may have been somewhat surprised by the response of Jesus. 

He called over a small child to be among them and said:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven [of God].

That is, unless they became like little children, they would not be ready to live their lives in accordance with what God wanted for them. 

In asking them to become a child, of course, Jesus was not calling on his disciples to be childish or temperamental. Nor, obviously, to have the mental understanding of a child.  But children, at their best, are totally open to learning; they want to know what is true and right, and they put their trust in the good judgement of their parents. 

If we are to become truly Kingdom people we, like children, need to have that openness to what is true and right and we need to surrender ourselves totally to the Way of Jesus: 

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus goes further – not only are his followers to have the docility, the teach-ability, of children before their Lord, but:

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And, in the passage which follows (but not included in today’s reading), Jesus gives dire warnings as to what will happen to people who become stumbling blocks to “little ones” so that they are blocked from coming in contact with God and his love.  These “little ones” include both innocent children but also all those of whatever age who may easily be led astray.

This part of the reading clearly applies to Don Bosco, who dedicated his life to opening up the world of the Gospel to young people and enabling them to live lives where they made a positive contribution to their societies in truth, love and justice.

The First Reading, from the Letter of Paul to the Christians of Philippi, reflects one of the outstanding qualities of Don Bosco, his cheerful temperament and his desire to bring joy and happiness into the lives of young people, especially those who came from deprived environments. 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

Today we thank God for the great work the Salesian Fathers, Brothers and Sisters continue to do for young people all over the world. And let them be an inspiration to us, too, to make what contribution we can to bettering the life of young people in our society.

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