Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
In St Matthew's Gospel we read that Jesus' disciples had asked Him, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I suspect that His reply was not what they expected to hear: "Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.." Matthew 18:4-5 NRSV
Like the disciples we may be puzzled at that answer. What exactly did Jesus mean? After all any school teacher will tell you that humility does not rank highly with children nowadays. And in receiving that scruffy obnoxious troublemaker into her classroom is she really welcoming God? Well since we accept that God is in everything and everyone then yes, she is; unlikely as it seems! Yet within each child is an innocence, a lack of knowledge, a lack of preconceptions. I believe that it was this to which Jesus was referring.
He was, I think, pointing out to the scribes and Pharisees, and indeed to all His listeners that 'the Way', as early Christians were known, was not a religion of the book. The rules and regulations set out in the Old Testament are important guidelines, and elsewhere Jesus said that He did not come to abolish them (Matt.5:17). However, the religious authorities of the time read Scripture in a literal way allowing no deviation from what was written there. Jesus was showing His listeners,and us, that rather than being a religion of the book, Christianity was a religion of the "Word", that Word of whom St John writes: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5 NRSV. The authorities of the time could not identify Jesus as the Messiah because they were locked into their texts with closed minds, which led them to view Him as dangerous and a threat to their authority; all leading to His arrest, Passion and Crucifixion.
Reading Scripture with a closed mind has been a problem down the ages and remains so to this day. It is very easy to find a verse or passage to justify our own preconceived (prejudiced?)view of situations or people. But we are not called to read Scripture in that way rather with humility and an open mind. It is only this way we will discover the living presence of Jesus in all whom we meet; even the scruffy obnoxious troublemaker. If we were all prepared to put aside our preconceptions of our neighbour and his views then I believe the world would be a happier, more peaceful place. Let us make a start today. After all is it so important to be right every time?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years