A reflection on the Sunday reading
By Bro. Ron Calderon, CJM
Are you childlike or a tyrant? I claim that the gospel today shows us what Jesus thinks about life tyrants, those who are always trying to be in control, and the childlike, those who are its opposite.
On the surface, the first part of the gospel is about the Jewish law on divorce while the second part is on Jesus’ estimation of children in the Kingdom of God. So where is Jesus telling us about life tyrants?
Let us look more closely. The Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus again in the reading. They want to get data from Jesus that they can use to incriminate the Lord. In this case, the Pharisees want to check if Jesus adheres to Jewish law.
And here in the Jewish law that the Pharisees brought up, Jesus saw the stubbornness of the Jewish people. According to the Lord, Moses permitted the law on divorce because of the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites. It is not a law that came purely from God but from those who want to be in control.
According to Richard Rohr, there are several groups of people who want to be in control. The first are those who live a very secure life. They follow a consistent life of schedules and routines day in and day out. Some of these type of people would try their best to get hold on positions of wealth, influence or power in order to set a life that they want. “It provides [them] with the illusion that [they] are in the driver’s seat, navigating on safe, small roads, and usually in a single, predetermined direction that can take [them] only where [they] have already been.” These are people who are averse to change, or if change is inevitable, they would direct themselves and others toward the change that they prefer. They might know God but God do not steer their lives. They do not allow God to steer the wheel because they have a tight grip on it.
The second group of people with controlling tendency is described by Rohr as follows: “They choose to whistle in the dark, look the other way, or just keep busy…. For them, life becomes a series of manufactured dramas, entertainment, and diversionary tactics intended to help them avoid the substantial questions.” These people’s tyranny is difficult to see, because they are not influencers, or politicians but rather, they are more the carefree, easygoing, pleasure seeking types.
Jesus without doubt would not prescribe to these two ways of living. What he prescribes is a life lived like that of a child: “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” These are not isolated words of Jesus. It is found in all of the three synoptic gospels. This strengthens the claim that of the many words of Jesus in the Gospel, we can be sure that he said it because he has three evangelists witnessing to these words. So it is clear in the writings of the evangelists that our Lord would like those who would like to follow him to be childlike in order to gain the Kingdom of heaven.
So if we really want to follow Jesus and attain the Kingdom of God, we cannot be too controlling in our life and demand from God that we be allowed to enter His kingdom. That is, we need to let go of our need to be in control and become like a trusting child. We have to live like someone who depends on God all the time. If we are children of God, we befriend Christ and become part of the Kingdom of God.
What does it really mean to be childlike? A spiritual writer who was reflectng on this same passage identifies four qualities of a child that people who want to be childlike for the Kingdom of God can adhere to. The four qualities are as follows: (1) unmitigated trust, (2) untutored humility, (3) untarnished receptivity and (4) unabashed love. If one has all these four qualities, definitely, he is not someone who craves control and a life of predictability. A childlike person, relies totally to God, and sees his experiences as opportunities to encounter God’s grace in the everyday.
So are you childlike or a tyrant? John Donahue, a bible scholar once said, “only those who receive God’s kingdom as a gift from God and make no claim upon it on the basis of their own status or power will enter God’s kingdom.” God wants us to chose only one, and He hopes that the life we chose will lead us to seeing Him at the end of our life.