Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
In a world which exalts the powerful and the machos in many ways being little is senseless. In fact, for the arrogant it is sheer folly! Yet, for those who really want to be great they have to be little.
This is what I gather from Pope Francis’ homily on the occasion of his visit marking the 1050thanniversary of the ‘Baptism of Poland’ in a Mass which he celebrated at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa on Thursday 28 July 2016. The Pope’s incisive words vividly reminded me of Jesus’ joyous exclamation as recorded by the evangelist Matthew. “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will” (Matt 11:25-26).
For Jesus our Father has a soft spot for the little ones! That is why he earnestly invites us to be simple, starting from our way of thinking! “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt 6:25-29).
If God has left his indelible mark of simplicity and humility in the birds of the air or the lilies of the field how much more his littleness is resplendent in his Son Jesus Christ? God made man? Thus, Pope Francis explained:
“It is particularly striking how the coming of God into history came about: he was ‘born of a woman’. There was no triumphal entrance or striking epiphany of the Almighty. He did not reveal himself as a brilliantly rising sun, but entered the world in thesimplest of ways, as a child from his mother, with that ‘style’ that Scripture tells us is like a rainfall upon the land (cf. Is 55:10), like the smallest of seeds which sprouts and grows (cf. Mk 4:31-32). Thus, contrary to our expectations and perhaps even our desires, the kingdom of God, now as then, ‘does not come in a way that attracts attention’ (Lk 17:20), but rather in littleness, in humility”.
For Pope Francis God is close to us “by making himself little, near and real”. For Francis “God makes himself little” by “lov[ing]the little ones, to whom the kingdom of God is revealed (Mt11:25); they are great in his eyes and he looks to them (cf. Is 66:2)… The little ones speak his own language, that of the humble love that brings freedom. So he calls the simple and receptive to be his spokespersons; he entrusts to them the revelation of his name and the secrets of his heart”.
Secondly God makes himself near. He “loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us”. For this reason he invites us, his Church, “to listen, to get involved and be neighbours, sharing in people’s joys and struggles, so that the Gospel can spread every more consistently and fruitfully: radiating goodness through the transparency of our lives”.
Finally, God makes himself real. God acts really and concretely. The Pope commented: “The Word becomes flesh, is born of a mother, is born under the law (cf. Gal 4:4), has friends and goes to a party. The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations”.
In a world scourged by arrogance and pride let us turn to the Lord and pray to him for the grace of littleness.
Lord, make me little to be receptive of your heart’s secrets. Make me near so that I can be a brother and a sister to the people I encounter with who need my help. Lord, make me real to spend time with others. Amen.