Today is Tuesday 11 August, the feast of St Clare, in the 19th week of Ordinary Time.
The monks of the Abbey of Keur Moussa sing Psalm 114, “I love the Lord, he hears my cry, he bends down to listen to me when I call” – words which paint a beautiful picture of God bending down to me like a mother or father bending down to their child, full of tenderness and love. As I listen, I reflect for a moment on that ‘tender, loving care’ – that love that God has for me… and the love which I, in return, have for God.
Today’s reading is from the Gospel of Matthew.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.'
Childhood can be a time of vulnerability and uncertainty, but children are often very open, feeling and expressing things spontaneously. Most children are without pretence or the defensive social masks that adults learn to wear. Jesus says that children are the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. What do you remember of your childhood that links with this? Stay for a while with whatever memories or images arise.
Jesus also talks about welcoming and not despising ‘little ones’. Who do you think the ‘little ones’ or the lost sheep are? Is this all about other people, or is there some aspect of yourself that has been lost or has gone astray? What do you want to say to Jesus about this?
The picture of a shepherd leaving his flock to find just one missing sheep may seem irresponsible, but Jesus shows us a different image than the world presents. Let’s listen to his words again with this image in mind.
Jesus speaks of the shepherd rejoicing at finding the lost sheep. Spend a little time in your imagination either as the seeking shepherd or as the lost sheep found again. What feelings and images come to you as you do this? Can you share those with Jesus and ask for the graces that you need right now?
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.