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Tuesday, first week of Advent

November 29, 2005

Blessed Tuesday!

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72: 1, 7-8, 12-13, 17 “Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever”
Luke 10: 21-24

A little child shall lead them

Today we learn more about leadership in God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of the “now” and the “not yet”. Ever since I’ve been delving more deeply into Church teaching, the Bible has become a whole new Book. Today’s readings are one example of that. I always thought the phrases “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of Heaven” referred strictly to Heaven–where we go after death.

The Church doesn’t see it that way.

The Church here on earth (the “now”) as well as in Heaven (the “not yet”) is the Kingdom of God. We’re living in the Kingdom! The wolves that dwell with the lambs are the fiercest nations, which embrace the Gospel and are led by the pastors of the Church (“I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves”, Luke 10:3). When Isaiah says that “a little child shall lead them”, all we have to do is look to the Gospel: “I offer You praise, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because what You have hidden from the learned and the clever You have revealed to the merest children” (Luke 10:21). His audience is the 72 disciples, who have just returned from their first preaching mission. Jesus turns to them and says “I tell you, many prophets and kings wished to see what you see but did not see it, to hear what you hear but did not hear it”. These are the “merest children”, the little ones, to whom the Father has revealed the mysteries of the kingdom, hidden from the learned and the clever. These are the leaders of the Church, to whom Jesus has entrusted His mission.

In passage after passage, Jesus drives home the point that those who enter the Kingdom (the Church), but especially those who are called to lead, must become lowly, humble, child-like. “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God as a child will not enter into it.” (Luke 18:17–this speaks to me of Baptism, of humbling ourselves to be born all over again, as well as of the attitude Jesus expects of His subjects). “Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly reign” (Matthew 18:4). “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant” (Luke 22:25-26).

And of course, Jesus Himself sets the example. We are preparing to celebrate the fact that the King of Kings came into the world as a Baby and lived as a little child. God, the ultimate authority, made Himself subject to authority! “…and He came to Nazareth and was obedient to them”-Luke 2:51. “…the Son cannot do anything by Himself–He can do only what He sees the Father doing” -John 5:19.

This humble authority is the gift God has given us in order to restore the sacred order He built into creation from the beginning, to redeem a world steeped in the wreckage of original sin. Order requires leadership, leadership that is at the service of Reality (and humility is seeing things as they really are, no more and no less), rather than at the service of selfishness. Jesus went to great pains to command just that type of leadership.

There are two sides to this coin. One is that we all have positions of leadership, whether it be for our children, for employees, or simply setting a good example to those who observe us in our day-to-day life. We as leaders must be as little children, humble, offering service, answerable to a higher authority, teachable. The other side is that we’re all under authority, an authority as non-threatening and as benevolent as the leadership of an obedient, humble child. I grant you, it often doesn’t feel that way! But we don’t have to rely on our feelings. Faith tells us that God can neither deceive nor be deceived, so we can count on what He tells us. He said to the 72, “He who hears you, hears Me” (Luke 10:16). When the Church speaks, we hear the voice of the God who humbled Himself to become a little Child for our sake.

May we, in our leadership, be as little children under the leadership of the little Child, Jesus, even in the midst of wolves, leopards and lions.

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