People are respected today because they are influential, because they are important or even useful. Who respects or cares for people who are not important? A young man who says he doesn’t believe in God happened to say to me recently that he supported churches because they represent and values that are good and healthy, like compassion. And compassion is a commodity that’s getting scarce.
When people asked Jesus who was the most important, the greatest, he called a small boy over. The kid may well have been unwashed and smelly by our western standards. Jesus looked beyond all that. When the little child came and stood with Jesus, he looked at his disciples and said to them: “This one.”
That was poetry in motion. Real importance, real value, is not determined or measured by externals. Not by education, material achievement, training or success. Personal value has more to do with character, honor, reliability and moral uprightness. These qualities are present in little children, but in an inchoate and unspoilt way.
“Everything is image,” said the voice, and said the text on the TV screen. It’s a fakeism that’s so easy to adopt as fact. Appearance is not the same thing as character. Looking good is not the same thing as being good. When celebrities fall and are found out, people are stunned because they had assumed that celebrity status was the same thing as nobility of soul.
Christianity thrives on the blood of martyrs. My thoughts turn often to the victims of the Communist and Nazi regimes of the last century; and to the many Maryknoll and other missionaries of Central America who suffered torture and death for justice sake; and to the missionaries in China in the ‘forties and ‘fifties who suffered long years in prison and stood their ground in the face of cruel torture and public execution. They remind me of what matters most.
Just as the mighty oak is contained in the little acorn, so a picture of the true follower of Christ can be seen in the innocence of a little child.
Fr. QQ. 9/18/18