The Prelate’s Sermon (July 18, 2021)
Today on the second Sunday of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel reading is from St. Matthew 18.10-14. Our Lord teaches not to despise the little ones. He warns that their angels continually see the face of God. He also points that when a sheep goes astray, the shepherd goes in search of the lost one, and when he finds it, he rejoices. Thus, Jesus concludes His teaching by saying, “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”
This passage is different from the many passages which describe miracles or discuss theology or refer to Messianic prophecy. In this passage, Jesus teaches us the essential tenets of Christian responsibility for one another and particularly for those who are in need of added protection. Let us benefit from the lessons in this passage.
- In antiquity, fathers considered their children as private members of the household and were treated as belonging only to the immediate family. Jesus opened a new dimension in our understanding to reevaluate these little ones not only as our own children but as God’s children as well. By the economy of “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), children are entrusted to the care of their parents. It is true that knowledge, wisdom, and experience come with age; nevertheless, as each seed carries the potential for future flowers, fruits, or trees, likewise all of us having experienced childhood know that children deserve not only love and care but also due respect as the children of God and the future collaborators with the Creator on this planet. There are child prodigies, who can compete with adults with their extraordinary knowledge, and be admired by them; however, most children flourish in a normal pace of growth and maturity. Sadly, and tragically, there are some children who are mistreated at home, ridiculed at school, or shunned by society at large for reasons which are not always understood. Jesus draws our attention to a fundamental issue, which is respect. In the Old Testament, if respect is mandatory toward God, Jesus fulfills the Law by inviting the society to extend respect likewise toward the little ones. The more we relate with the children in a mature and respectful manner, the better we prepare a healthy generation for the Kingdom of God.
- The statement of our Lord that the angel of the little ones sees the face of God reminds us that there is accountability for any irresponsible behavior against children for it is in effect directed against the heavenly Father. Throughout history, but mostly after the Industrial Revolution, and in the more recent and deplorable crisis of child trafficking, we are aware of just how vulnerable children are. God’s unconditional love is above all understanding. Yet, when someone treats innocent children as objects of greed, vice, or personal interest rather than as an angel before God, that person stands before the wrath of God in the Day of Judgment.
- It is common that when we address an audience and use examples, we refer to celebrities, successful people, or leaders in society, yet our Lord Jesus Christ, as the caring Creator, embraces all the elements, rational and non-rational, as part and parcel of harmonious Creation. He instructs His followers using examples taken from the life of modest people. In today’s Gospel, Jesus provides the role model of a shepherd in search of his sheep which had gone astray. We are reminded immediately that in the first paradise, every provision was made available to Adam and Eve, and yet through deception by the serpent, they like sheep went astray. The heavenly Father has sent the Son, who is the good and brave shepherd, to find all of the lost sheep and to bring them, through the salvific outpouring of love upon the Cross, back to the protection and joy of the blessed flock to be gathered at the right hand.
- Within this short passage the common ground between the care of the little ones and the lost sheep is very eloquent. Every person is tremendously valuable for God. Regardless of age, gender, or color, with all physical, intellectual, and other differences we equally are loved by God. He cares for each of us more than we do, because we are the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8), and He knows each of us and will call by our name (Is 43:1).
After knowing the infinite love, let us not be fooled into other ways of life, but let us always graze in His pastures of commandments with humility, respect, gratitude, and praise for His Providential care. Amen.