25th Sun [B] 2006

Fr. Charles Irvin

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16 – 4:3; Mark 9:30-37

“If anyone wants to rank first,” Jesus tells us, “he must become the servant of all.” At first blush that sounds like a nice saying. But the more we give it some reflection and thought, the more effort it seems to require of us. It seems to contradict common sense. How could anyone contend that those who serve are the more important persons in the world?

Greatness (or importance, if you will) has a quality of simplicity to it… the attraction of simple, quiet, and humble goodness. Little children present that quality to us in moments other than those in which they are being little tyrants. Their simplicity, their innocent goodness, their unabashed acceptance of others, particularly of those who are somehow “different” from us, and their ability to learn, and their “teachableness” are qualities Jesus is placing in front of all who would aspire to importance and greatness.

The power of simple, natural goodness is irresistible. One can defy any disaster or dare any danger when one is simply doing the will of God. That person will escape evil, perhaps not escape suffering, but certainly escape evil. This is the secret of the saints who have defied immense odds and who have, like David, conquered Goliaths with that simple, little principle in living.

So lets take a look at humble childlikeness, that quality Jesus wants us to find in us.

Those who are childlike are unpretentious. They see themselves as little, needing and wanting to learn, curious about life and about the big questions in life. They ask the question: “Why?” All children do.

They are open, trusting, daring, and uninhibited in loving and in being loved; they love without an agenda.

They are open to what can happen, however fanciful that may be.

They dare to dream dreams, even seemingly impossible dreams.

They have imagination and think beyond what is merely scientific.

They are innocent and unburdened by guilt or shame over their past choices and actions.

They treat everyone as equals, giving no special honors to anyone no matter how great they are in the eyes of adults.

They see more to life than just physical reality. They pay little attention to the boundaries of physical reality.

They see beyond what is predictable and mundane.
They are in communion with all things.
They want to be in communion with all people.

They go to deeper levels than mere facts, information, and data; they rely on imagination and are thrilled by inspiration.

Each one of us, no matter how old we are, has a little child living deep down within us. We should listen to that child. We should hear it telling us: “If you aren’t careful you’ll become an adult, one who doesn’t care about others or is careless with them, who becomes greedy, then lazy, then fat, than big in one’s own eyes, then stupid, then bad.”

Childlike goodness is something so simple. Childlike goodness is to always live for others, never to seek one’s own advantage. In the eyes of God, the simple life of a Roman street sweeper at the Vatican is just as important to God as the most princely of cardinals and popes. Rank and position have little to do with Christ’s ideas about being important.

Ask yourself this question: “Who have been the most important persons in my life?” When you remember them they were probably not rich or famous. They gave you what you could not give yourself. They taught you important lessons, have you important ideas and values.

Undoubtedly they unselfishly gave you unconditional love. They gave you quality time and attention. They gave you their energy and concern. They probably sacrificed their own comfort and convenience to give you things they didn’t have to give you but simply wanted to give you.

Most likely they corrected you when you went astray. They gave you moral norms so you could develop a quality personal character of your own along with a certain nobility of soul.

I cannot fail to mention here those who taught you how to love God, those who transmitted their faith to you, who mentored you by their example of Christian living, who nurtured your soul in the love of God and in the love of Jesus.

They were, in a word, your servants, placing before you on life’s banquet table the necessary food for nourish your soul.

The meaning of success is truly found in service. That’s why Jesus puts a little child in front of us, the most vulnerable and the most dependent among us. The true test of your life and mine is how we treat those and respect those who are weaker than we are, more dependent than we are, more vulnerable than we are. We can ignore them, or we can devote our lives to caring for them. That’s the choice Jesus gave to His disciples. That’s the choice Jesus punts in front of you and me here today. Can you love God and love others with humble childlike simplicity?

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”