Journey for a Child

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I’m preaching a parish mission at St.Damien’s Parish in Ocean City, NJ today till Tuesday evening. Each evening at 7 I’m commenting on a part of the Gospel of Luke, which we’re reading in church most Sundays this year.

Tonight I’m preaching on the Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, which Luke begins in Chapter 9 and continues to the 19th chapter, when Jesus reaches the Holy City.  “When the days for him to be taken up were fulfilled (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9,51-19,28)

Luke doesn’t offer a neat catalogue of miles traveled or places reached in his description of Jesus’ journey. This is the time to gather and instruct disciples, who  witness to him on the journey to Jerusalem and, after his ascension into heaven, bring his message to the ends of the world. An essential quality for a disciple is to be childlike. (Luke 18,15-17)

At the start of his Galilean ministry, Jesus meets opposition in his own town of  Nazareth. The Samaritans, who turn back his messengers, oppose him as he begins to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9,53-56) There will be others too who oppose him. The Pharisees ensconced in their synagogues pour out criticism on him. Others are too preoccupied with riches or caught in their own interests to pay him any attention.

Some whom we might expect to be interested only in money surprise us, like Zacchaeus the chief publican of Jericho, who welcomes Jesus into his house on his journey. The poor, like the blind man, are also likely to follow him up the road.

But those sure to follow Jesus into the kingdom of heaven are the childlike, not those clinging to power and rank.  Matthew and Mark also say that Jesus pointed out the child to his disciples as an example. (Matthew 18.1-5; Mark 9,35-37}

I wonder if that’s the secret of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector from Jericho, the little man who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus passing by.

St. Leo the Great, an early pope, said that becoming like a child does not mean becoming an infant physically. We can’t go back. But the childlike can go forward to the kingdom of God. They’re small enough to get through the narrow gate.  Becoming a child means to be free from crippling anxieties, to be forgetful of injuries, to be sociable, and look in wonder at all things.

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Tomorrow I’m going to comment on the Passion narrative from Luke’s Gospel. On the journey to God, Jesus must pass through death. His disciples will accompany him.

Tuesday evening, I’ll talk on the Resurrection narrative from Luke.

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