Ash Wednesday Reflection
- Mat 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
- Mat 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.
- Mat 18:3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Mat 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
- Mat 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
- Mat 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
What’s your earliest memory as a child?
I have this picture of an ice cream cake at a 4th or 5th birthday. Apart from a pleasant memory like that I remember my first teacher at school – who wore dingle-dangle earrings and had a cane! Scary lady.
Mostly I remember needing my parents – especially when I was unwell. I needed my mum! She seemed to know what to do. And I trusted her.
Becoming an adult meant you had to take responsibility yourself. And in time – if you were blessed with children – they had to trust you. And you had to care for them!
It’s not surprising that abuse of children makes us feel ill and angry. It shouldn’t be like that.
As we get older still – the hard thing is that we have to trust other people to look after us. Our children start parenting us! And we need care-givers again.
In the frailty of advancing years, we become angry once more when frail and dependent people are abused. It shouldn’t be like that!
In Matthew 18 he disciples asked this question: Mat 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus used a child as an object lesson when he brought a child to them and said: Mat 18:3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Mat 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Mat 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. Mat 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
The “little ones” are all those who are dependent upon others.
One commentator (Elizabeth Johnson) says this:
Jesus then continues talking about “little ones” (hoi mikroi) in the figurative sense — those without power or status in the community of faith. With shocking imagery, he states the utter seriousness of causing the downfall (the Greek verb skandalizõ) of any of these “little ones who believe in me.” Indeed, he warns that “it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Johnson goes on to say: This text is well chosen for Ash Wednesday, a day that focuses on self-examination and repentance, remembering that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” Indeed, we are all “little ones” before God, completely dependent upon God for the breath of life here and now and for the life to come.
Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent call us to repentance and renewal — to a drowning of the old self in the waters of baptism, with all the old self’s evil deeds and desires and potential for causing others to stumble, in order to be raised to new life from those same baptismal waters. This is dramatic imagery as well, but that which it symbolizes is much better than being drowned with a millstone in the depths of the sea!
The bottom line – for us – for the disciples of Jesus back then – and for those being martyred in this generation – is that we have to depend on God with the absolute trust of a child.
In a healthy family – children trust because they know that their parents are trustworthy. Jesus wants us to know that God is trustworthy too. That’s why he says elsewhere in His teaching on prayer: Luk 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Luk 11:10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luk 11:11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Luk 11:12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? Luk 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
May we be able to trust Him like little children, in the knowledge that we all have sinned and are undeserving recipients of His love and grace. May we also repent for our part in any way in the hurting and abuse of others through our lives.
Sources: Elisabeth Johnson – Professor – Lutheran Institute of Theology, Meiganga, Cameroon