Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 26, 2016 — “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me”

Monday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 455

Photo by Beth Kish


Reading 1 JB 1:6-22

One day, when the angels of God came to present themselves before the LORD,
Satan also came among them.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Whence do you come?”
Then Satan answered the LORD and said,
“From roaming the earth and patrolling it.”
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job,
and that there is no one on earth like him,
blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?”
But Satan answered the LORD and said,
“Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing?
Have you not surrounded him and his family
and all that he has with your protection?
You have blessed the work of his hands,
and his livestock are spread over the land.
But now put forth your hand and touch anything that he has,
and surely he will blaspheme you to your face.”
And the LORD said to Satan,
“Behold, all that he has is in your power;
only do not lay a hand upon his person.”
So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.And so one day, while his sons and his daughters
were eating and drinking wine
in the house of their eldest brother,
a messenger came to Job and said,
“The oxen were ploughing and the asses grazing beside them,
and the Sabeans carried them off in a raid.
They put the herdsmen to the sword,
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was yet speaking, another came and said,
“Lightning has fallen from heaven
and struck the sheep and their shepherds and consumed them;
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was yet speaking, another messenger came and said,
“The Chaldeans formed three columns,
seized the camels, carried them off,
and put those tending them to the sword,
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was yet speaking, another came and said,
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine
in the house of their eldest brother,
when suddenly a great wind came across the desert
and smote the four corners of the house.
It fell upon the young people and they are dead;
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair.
He cast himself prostrate upon the ground, and said,“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back again.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!”In all this Job did not sin,
nor did he say anything disrespectful of God.

Responsorial Psalm PS 17:1BCD, 2-3, 6-7

R. (6) Incline your ear to me and hear my word.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. Incline your ear to me and hear my word.
From you let my judgment come;
your eyes behold what is right.
Though you test my heart, searching it in the night,
though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me.
R. Incline your ear to me and hear my word.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee
from their foes to refuge at your right hand.
R. Incline your ear to me and hear my word.

Alleluia MK 10:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 9:46-50

An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

 Jésus et les Petits Enfants  – Stained glass window, St Eusebe de Verceil church in Montreal

Commentary on Luke 9:46-50 From Living Space

Following on Jesus once again telling his disciples that he was going to be “handed over” to suffering and death, we were told in our previous reading that they did not understand what he meant. It did not make sense to them.

Now, almost as an indication of how far they were from Jesus’ thinking, they began arguing among themselves which one among them should be seen as the greatest. Why should they be arguing about this? Was it because, whatever difficulties they had in accepting what Jesus had said about his future, they were wondering what was going to happen after Jesus had been taken away from them? If they were to remain together as a group, which of them would be in charge?

Perhaps Peter was already beginning to think that he should be the one. Perhaps some of the others felt it should be one of them.

But Jesus, who, of course, was not present during these sensitive discussions, was well aware of what was going on. He took a child and put it in their midst. “Whoever receives a child like this in my name, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives him who sent me. For the one that is least among you all is the greatest.”

It is interesting that the greatness is to be seen in the child rather than in the one who receives it. The child represents all who are vulnerable and weak and powerless. To “receive” such persons is to treat them with the utmost dignity and respect and to accept them and lift them up.

In Jesus’ eyes, such little people are truly great because, to those who have eyes to see, they are the ones in whom we can especially meet Jesus and love and serve him. St Francis of Assisi, who kissed the leper (a particularly daring thing to do in his time), or Mother Teresa, tenderly picking up a decaying, barely living body off the street knew this well. To find Jesus in such a person is to make direct contact with God himself.

Jesus himself will reach the peak of his own greatness when he hangs dying and helpless on the cross. This is the lesson the disciples will learn to see and accept in time. We have to keep working on it too because it does not come easily to any of us.

The second part of today’s gospel points to another area where the disciples have to change their outlook. John, the brother of James, who both come across in the Synoptics as somewhat hotheaded (they had the nickname “sons of thunder”), tells Jesus they saw someone driving out devils in Jesus’ name. They had told the man to stop because he was “not one of us”. (Was there an element of jealousy also? In Mark 9:14ff, we are told that the disciples failed to drive out an evil spirit from a boy.)

Here we have something of the arrogance of the insider, of the elitist. John and his companions felt that the exorcism of evil spirits in the name of Jesus was something only they were allowed to do. Jesus did not agree. “Leave him alone,” he told them. And he enunciates a principle for them to follow: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

It is a constant temptation among more devout religious people to set themselves apart from “the others”. It can happen to bishops or priests or religious. It can happen in a parish to members of the parish council or some parish group – a prayer group, charismatics, the liturgy committee or whatever.

We can find ourselves developing a two-tier community of “us” and “them”. We can find ourselves looking down on those who come in late for Mass and hang around the back door or who only come occasionally or maybe even only turn up at Christmas.

Even more, we can be tempted to set ourselves apart from non-Catholic and non-Christian groups. We can fail to see God working in all kinds of people, religious and non-religious, atheists, agnostics and people who apparently do not believe in anything.

Of course, as Christians, we do have a distinctive understanding of life and its meaning coming from the teaching and life of Jesus and it should not be compromised. But, at the same time, we do not have a monopoly of the truth. No one has. The full Truth is beyond all of us. We are all searching. Still less do we have a monopoly on good works. God can and does use any person to build the Kingdom. And it is our responsibility to work hand in hand with such people. Ultimately, our aim is not to promote our Church but God’s work and God’s plan for the whole world.



What floods into our mind here?
Jesus is again using a child, a young boy or girl, as an example of utter acceptance and dependence upon God. The Gospel seems to harken back to. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
When the disciples start wondering “which of them was the greatest” — their pride and self-seeking has taken over — even as they remain in the presence of  the Savior!
Just yesterday at his Vatican Mass, Pope Francis warned against “the  danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives.”
Yesterday’s reading (1 Tm 6:11-16)  spoke about “without stain or reproach” ….  “our Lord Jesus Christ”  …. “the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light.”
So the disciples, being human, slip into pride and self-seeking even while in the presence of Jesus. Do we do this? Sure, if we are not careful, we do this all the time. “Look at the tremendous house I have built,” we tend to say, forgetting where our skills and abilities come from.
Yesterday it was Lazarus that needed loving service. Today it is a little child.
Jesus seems to be saying, “Your reward will come in heaven: here on earth don’t ask who is best, just reach out to others and pour out yourself to others in loving service.”
Peace and Freedom

Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
The text enlightens us. If previously Luke had presented the convergence of the men around Jesus to recognize him in faith, to attend to listen to him and to be present to his cures, now, a new stage is opened in his public itinerary. The person of Jesus does not monopolize the attention of the crowds any more but he is presented as the one who slowly is being drawn away from his own to go toward the Father. Such an itinerary foresees his journey to Jerusalem. And while he is about to undertake that journey, Jesus reveals to them the destiny that is awaiting him (9, 22). Then he is transfigured before them to indicate the starting point of his “Exodus” toward Jerusalem.
But immediately after the light that he experiences in the transfiguration, Jesus once again announces his Passion leaving the disciples uncertain and disturbed. The words of Jesus on the event of his Passion, “The Son of man is going to be delivered into the power of men”, but they did not understand (9, 45) and they were afraid to ask him (9, 45).
Jesus takes a child. The enigma of Jesus being delivered broke out a great dispute among the disciples to decide to whom the first place would belong. Without being asked his opinion, Jesus, who being God knew how to read hearts, intervenes with a symbolical gesture. To begin he takes a child and places him at his side. Such a gesture is an indication of election, of privilege that is extended at the moment that one becomes a Christian (10, 21-22).
So that this gesture will be understood, not uncertain, Jesus gives a word of explanation: the “greatness” of the child is not stressed but his inclination to “acceptance”. The Lord considers “great” anyone who like a child knows how to accept God and his messengers. Salvation presents two aspects: the election on the part of God which is symbolized by the gesture of Jesus who accepts the child: and the acceptance of the one who has sent him, the Father of Jesus (the Son) and of every man. The child embodies Jesus, and both together in their smallness and suffering, realize God’s presence (Bovon).
But the two aspects of salvation are indicative also of faith: in the gift of election the passive element emerges; in service, the active one; two pillars of the Christian existence. To accept God or Christ in faith has the consequence of total acceptance of the little ones on the part of the believer or of the community. “To be great” about which the disciples were discussing is not a reality of something beyond, but it refers to the present moment and is expressed in the ‘diaconia’ of service.
Lived love and faith carry out two functions: we are accepted by Christ (takes the child); but also we have the particular gift of receiving him (“anyone who accepts the child, accepts him, the Father”, v. 48). A brief dialogue follows between Jesus and John (vv. 49-50). This last disciple is considered among the intimate ones of Jesus. The exorcist who does not belong to those who are intimate with Jesus is entrusted the same role that is given to the disciples. He is an exorcist who, on the one side is external to the group, but on the other, he is inside the group because he has understood the Christological origin of divine force that guides him (“in your name”). The teaching of Jesus is clear: a Christian group should not place obstacles to the missionary activity of other groups.
There are no Christians who are “greater” than others, but one is “great” in being and in becoming Christians. And then missionary activity has to be in the service of God and not to increase one’s own fame or renown. That clause on the power of the name of Jesus is of crucial importance: it is a reference to the liberty of the Holy Spirit, whose presence is certainly within the Church, but it can extend beyond the instituted or official ministries.
Personal questions
You, as a believer, baptized, how do you live success and suffering?
What type of “greatness” do you live in your service to life, to persons? Are you capable of transforming competition into cooperation?
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
26 SEPTEMBER 2016, Monday, 26th Week of Ordinary Time
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  JOB 1:6-22; LUKE 9:46-50  ]

Is it not true that most of us are devoted to God only because He has blessed us materially and physically?  If not for the hope of His blessings and His protection from the evil one, would we be serving Him in Church and in His community? This was the contention of Satan when he disputed the integrity of Job whom God claimed, is “a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil.”

Well, what the devil says is perhaps true for many of us.  We only love God and serve Him in good times. So long as God blesses us with security, wealth, health and status, we are happy to declare that He is a Wonderful, Mighty God and Counselor.  But will we still be faithful to Him in the face of suffering?  Or will we resent Him, especially when we suffer tragedies, failure or disappointment?  Will we give up our belief that He is a loving, all powerful and wise God when suffering comes our way?  Do we come to Him only because He gives us what we want rather than because we want to give Him what He wants?

Well, the apostles apparently also served Jesus for the wrong reasons.  The gospel tells us that they were arguing over position and status.  Sure, they wanted to follow Jesus and serve Him, but underlying their professed intention was their hidden agenda of seeking power, glory and recognition.  In spite of Jesus’ reprimand and exhortation to be like children, their desire to control and to dominate surfaced again when they wanted to stop “a man casting out devils” in His name, simply because he was not one of them.  Is religion a means to power over others?

In contrast, we have the example of Job who is truly the exemplar of faith in God, a faith that was unshaken by trials and tribulations.  Despite losing his possessions and even his children, one after another, in continuous succession, he remained resilient in his faith.  Instead of cursing God, Job resigned himself all the more to God. “In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.”

Where is the source of his unshakeable faith? It was his absolute faith in the power and love of God.  He knew that all that he had were gifts from God and not his right. Instead of lamenting that he had lost his possessions, he was thankful that God had even given them to him at all.  He knew, unlike us, that everything he had, even his loved ones, were gifts of God and were on loan. Everything he had and all that he was, belonged to God alone.  Undoubtedly then his devotion to God was not the consequence of the blessings of security that he received from Him, but because of his faith and love.

But why does God permit such suffering to take place when He loves us?  Suffering remains a mystery beyond our understanding.  Again, it boils down to the question of freedom in love. If God allows Satan to tempt us and also gives us the freedom to act accordingly, it is because love entails freedom.  By giving us our freedom, God is not only respecting us, but He is also showing His confidence in us.  As superiors or parents, isn’t it true that when we give freedom to our subordinates or our children, it is a sign of our confidence in them that they will choose wisely and rightly?  Otherwise we will use rules and laws to control them.  But just because they behave and keep the rules does not mean that they are mature, for they could observe them out of fear and coercion.  So in giving freedom to our children, we are telling them that even if they were to choose wrongly, we allow mistakes as part of their maturing process and at the same time we know that they will be judicious in making decisions for their own good.

Nevertheless, giving our subordinates the freedom to choose and even to make mistakes does not mean that we abandon them to their fate.  Rather, we continue to guide them gently and encourage them, even when they fail to be faithful.  If that should be the way we groom our young and those under our care, how much more would God continue to support us and give us the grace to be faithful to Him?  And even when we disappoint Him at times, He is always there to forgive us and give us strength to pull ourselves together and start all over again.

What is needed is that we have the humility to turn to Him for empowerment and for mercy, like the psalmist.  He said, “Incline your ear to me and hear my word. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my word. Show your wondrous mercies, O savior of those who flee from their foes to refuge at your right hand.”  In the gospel, this need for humility is reinforced when Jesus reprimanded His disciples who were seeking to be great.  Unless we are like little children, receptive to God’s Word, docile to His grace and most of all, trusting in the providential love of our heavenly Father, we will easily be discouraged in the face of failure and trials.  But if we are childlike in our disposition towards God, we will never have to fear that He will abandon us or punish us when we sin, since every parent is forgiving of their children and holds no grudges.

Secondly, with the humility of a child, we will be able to recognize Christ and God’s wisdom in our sufferings and failures.  Jesus tells us, “Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.”  It implies that only with a child-like faith can we see the hand of God in insignificant events or even in unpleasant situations at work.  What the world considers as unimportant or irrelevant, for God everything is done in accordance with His divine plan and wisdom.  There is nothing on this earth or nothing that we can do to disrupt His purpose for creation.

Indeed, let us imitate the undaunting spirit of Job whenever suffering comes our way.  Instead of focusing on our sufferings and our losses, let us in our affliction remember the good times and good things the Lord has given to us.  We must not forget that whatever has been given to us is on loan.  We do not and cannot hold on to the temporal things of this earth forever.  Whilst we have them, let us be grateful and use them well.  When we are deprived of them, we must learn to let go as well.  We must remember we are but pilgrims on this earth.

Thomas A. Kempis in the “Imitation of Christ” has this advice to offer us. “As Scripture says, ‘In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity.’ Whoever, in the moment of receiving God’s gifts but forgets to fear possible affliction, will be brought low by his presumption. Equally, whoever in the moment of suffering fails to take comfort from the gifts which has been his lot to receive, is thrown down from the steadfastness of his mind and despairs. The two must be united so that each may always have the other’s support, so that both remembrance of the gift may moderate the pain of the blow and fear of the blow may moderate exuberance at receiving the gift. Thus the holy man, to soothe the depression of his mind amidst his wounds, weighs the sweetness of the gifts against the pains of affliction, saying ‘If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?’”


Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore


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