25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Focus
(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, the disciples are having a hard time. They cannot focus. Jesus tries to teach them, but they just do not understand. Jesus has to think of another way to help them focus.
Jesus was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
What does Jesus mean by "betrayed"? How will that happen? How does he know this? Why will he be killed? What does rise again mean? Why does he keep talking about this???
The disciples are afraid to focus on these questions. They do not ask for answers. They do not want to talk about death and dying. They turn their focus onto something else.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when Jesus was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.
What have they been focusing on? Themselves. Who is the best? Who is greatest? This is a much safer subject than death and dying. If they focus on Jesus, they might see the cross.
Maybe Peter is the greatest—he often speaks for all the others. Maybe Andrew is greatest—Jesus called him and Peter first, and Andrew does not get into nearly as much trouble as Peter does. Maybe John is the greatest—he seems to think that Jesus loves him best. This is a way more interesting subject than death and dying.
The disciples are comparing themselves to one each other. They are acting like children. They are acting like us. We know among our friends who is smartest, who is fastest, who is prettiest. Or we think we know. We spend time thinking about it. Or proving it.
(May I tell you a story? I remember a time when my younger brother fell and scraped his knee. My friend and I were looking after him. We each wanted to be the one who put the bandage on his knee. She felt she should do it because she was the oldest. I felt that I should do it because I was his sister. We argued about who was more important. My brother stopped crying and sat and waited with blood dripping down his leg for us to finish our argument. Were we focusing on what was most important? Our eyes were looking in the wrong direction.)
When the disciples are looking in the wrong direction, when they are focusing on themselves, what does Jesus do?
He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
When Jesus sits down and calls to them, the disciples have to turn their eyes away from each other to find him. By sitting down, Jesus redirects their attention. They re-focus.
Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms
Jesus wraps his arms around the child. When the disciples look at the child, they see Jesus. When the disciples look at Jesus, they see the child. It is the same. Both are in their focus now.
Does Jesus care who is the greatest or who is the best? Does Jesus care who is smartest, fastest, prettiest? Jesus wraps his arms around children and calls us to focus. When we see children, we see Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
What does welcoming someone mean? Our parents welcome family and friends into our home. They see them and smile because they know them. They make them feel comfortable in our home. Jesus says that welcoming children—seeing them and smiling, making them feel comfortable—welcomes him. Not only him, but the One who sends him. Welcoming children, welcomes God, too.
We see children all the time! Every child we see, each child we see—even the ones we do not really care for, the dumb, the slow, the ugly, the annoying and mean—makes us smile, even for a moment. We smile at them because we know who else we are seeing and smiling at. We focus in the right direction. We make God comfortable in our home.