Tuesday, October 20, 2009

As A Little Child

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

On Sunday, we will read from the Gospel According to St. Luke. We will also commemorate St. Luke as October 18 is his feast day. (If you go to www.oca.org and click on "Feasts & Saints," you will find there a short account of St. Luke's life). Therefore, in addition to the appointed Gospel reading (LK. 8:5-15), we will add a second appointed reading in honor of St. Luke (LK. 10:16-21). As a humble evangelist, St. Luke does not refer to himself in the entire Gospel, so the appointed reading must be one that was chosen because it points to him in such a way that his role and character precisely as a disciple of the Lord and evangelist is underlined. It is a passage meant to bring out a significant trait. We read and hear the following in this portion of the appointed text:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Lk. 10:17-21)

Church Tradition numbers St. Luke among the Seventy Apostles, hence one of the purposes behind this passage that mentions the seventy and their appointed ministry that would continue following the Death and Resurrection of Christ. The greater purpose of the preaching and healing ministry that is extended to the Lord's disciples is the overthrowing of Satan's power and grip on men and women. Jesus has a direct vision of this victory, clearly echoed in the Book of Revelation (12:9).

Together with this, Jesus further rejoices in the Holy Spirit ( a characteristic of St. Luke to mention this) that "these things" - the preaching of the Gospel attended by such great signs - are revealed to, and understood by, "infants" (also translated as "babes"). This is occurring simultaneously with the inability of the "wise" to grasp these mysteries of the Kingdom of God! The revelation is meant for everyone, but the religious authorities, who are considered to be wise and prudent, have blinded themselves to be open to "these things," making them even hostile to Christ in the process. However, this teaching is not limited to the scribes and Pharisees of Christ's time. A certain blindness or arrogance can and does exist at all times when the Gospel seems "too simple" for the sophisticated minds of the (self-appointed?) intellectual elites of any given era. In this context, "infants" and "babes" refers to the "simple faith" of "simple people" who, in accepting the revelation that comes from God, are able to be true disciples of Christ. Clearly, the evangelist Luke was one such disciple. Thus, this is not simply about babies and young children! It is about the over-looked members of any given society - including our own - being granted a gift from our heavenly Father that only requires for its reception an openness of mind and heart. One's level of intellectual sophistication is not the determining factor in a positive and open response to the Gospel. As one scholar put it: "The message of Jesus is not grasped by wisdom and understanding; it is known only by revelation." (John L. McKenzie)

Elsewhere, Jesus spoke of receiving the Kingdom of God "as a little child" (MK. 10:15). To be "child-like" is certainly not to be "childish." We may speak of innocence and purity, but to be like a child in the context of Christ's teaching is also to be instinctively aware of one's dependence on another and to trust that source on which one is dependent. The true disciple, acting in a child-like manner trusts our heavenly Father Who is able to number the hairs on our head. To be childish, on the other hand, is to be immature and self-centered in such a way that in exasperation one adult may say of another "what a baby!" The most brilliant theologian is a "child of God," and as dependent upon God as the little child is upon his mother or father. It is that simplicity that one must not lose as we grow in wisdom and understanding all through life. This does not mean that we will believe anything; but that we will believe in the true things as they are revealed to us. Discernment is essential, but not a discernment blinded by scepticism and cynicism. To be "as a little child" is to retain the "laughter of the soul" that St. John Klimakos so commends. It is the way of entrance into the Kingdom of God.

Fr. Steven

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