For Saturday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year
Today in his Gospel our Lord is at the beginning of a great turning point in his career.
He has just begun his final journey towards the city of Jerusalem.
He will be greeted in triumph at the city gates on a Sunday, only to be shoved outside the city gates and crucified on the following Friday.
As he turns now to approach his “Great Week” and his Cross in Jerusalem, he gives us four lessons.
First he teaches about husbands, wives, marriage, and also celibacy for the kingdom of heaven.
That is what we heard yesterday in his Gospel.
Immediately afterwards— as we heard today— he teaches that to such as children belongs the kingdom of heaven.
The fourth lesson as he turns towards the Cross in Jerusalem immediately follows today’s lesson.
To follow our Lord into the kingdom of heaven we must keep all the commandments and be ready to give everything we have to the poor in order to follow the Lord empty-handed.
On the Cross, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, our Lord will give flesh and blood to these four lessons.
The Death of the Cross would seem to have sundered the marriage of God and humanity in the Incarnation of Christ.
On the contrary, the Cross was the “Bridal Threshold” to the undying union of God and humanity in the glory of resurrection.
Paradoxically, his death on the Cross also consecrates Christ in celibacy, setting him apart and removing him from every earthly spouse, so that he might belong exclusively and entirely to the glory of the heavenly Father and the salvation of every human being.
The Son of God not only kept all the commandments, but he left behind all his possessions by passing through the absolute poverty of death.
In this way his renewed marriage to humanity in the resurrection is perfect, total … consummate.
Through the same absolute renunciation by death, Christ is also perfect in his celibate consecration to the Father’s glory and humanity’s salvation.
What paradox there is to hear these “Evangelical Counsels” of Christ inviting us to join him in turning toward the Cross at Jerusalem, while he also tells us to turn and become like children, for to such as children belongs the kingdom of heaven!
Like a child, horribly simple in its vulnerability, Christ suffered the abuse of the Cross.
Yet there is more than a child on the Cross.
Christ chose to suffer with all the depths of his innocent human freedom as well as the absolute freedom of God.
He suffered as no merely human child can even begin to suffer.
When we turn, as Christ says, and become like children for the sake of entering the kingdom of heaven, we are turning to expose our unprotected vulnerability and our availability for the demands of his kingdom, even if those demands should lead us to the Cross.
It is an unspeakable crime to make children suffer.
Yet the Son of God turned to the Cross with all and more than the innocence and vulnerability of a child.
He turned to the Cross with the entire freedom, availability and all-knowing wisdom of God.
He did not cry out against his suffering as any child naturally would.
Rather, he opened not his mouth— like a lamb led to slaughter— the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world.
Let us turn now to welcome the king of heaven in his Eucharist, welcoming him with all the childlike vulnerability and availability that we can muster.