FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
The early Church was viewed from a defenseless position. The Gospel reading paints a picture that fits the description of the Church during the time of Christ and the first three centuries. In fact, some historians tag early Christianity as a doctrine suited to defenseless children and those who wish to become defenseless children – in sum a religion for weaklings.
During the ministry of Jesus, his opponents made it an open secret that they were setting traps for him and his followers. Those things made “the Jesus company” a little bit defenseless to the extent that Jesus and his disciples avoided certain public programs just to be on a safer side. The Post-Resurrectional Christian community was constantly under persecution to the extent that St Paul will later state that “…I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are awaiting for me” (Acts 20:21-23). These situations made the early Christians defenseless.
In the Gospel Jesus taught his disciples how he will be entrapped and delivered up, put to death, and rise on the third day. When this prediction of Jesus came to pass, it may have been the thought of his enemies that they had succeeded in their plot but little did they realized that Jesus, not his opponents, determines his fate; as he told Pilate he has the power to lay down his life and pick it up again. Jesus made himself defenseless to allow God to show his power of life and death.
In defenselessness, humans have the natural inclination to seek power in order to feel a sense of security. Instead for some of Jesus’ disciples to seek spiritual solutions to earthly defenselessness, they decided to scheme for earthly positions as a means of security. And so, having heard from Jesus how defenseless they were, the disciples started to quarrel over which of them will be the greatest. Little did the disciples notice that greatness wasn’t part of the virtues of “the Christ discipleship”. In the fellowship of Christ to be great and mighty stands in opposition to Christ’s proven patience and gentleness.
As the sound of his misunderstood prophecy fades away, Jesus takes the child, whose nature everyone understands, in his arms to demonstrate the truth proclaimed by his entire existence: the Greatest, God, proves his greatness by stooping down to place himself in the lowest place as a slave. A child, the weakest form of human existence, who by his very nature calls out for care and acceptance, is the real symbol of this God, who is accepted when one picks up a child: when one accepts, first of all, the humbled Son, but accepting in him accepts the Father as well, for the Father agreed to his humiliation. By his freely chosen slave’s service, God demonstrates to all the wicked and those obsessed with lust for power that he is supreme over all. Who among us has the courage to imitate him?
The biting words of the second reading, which inexorably unveil man’s sinful interior in the sight of God, merely draw conclusions from the above. Man’s striving for power and greatness, which unavoidably involves wars and prestige battles, ultimately leads nowhere, for the “envious” and “ambitious” man is torn by inner contradictions. He strives for things that run contrary to his nature, he is in “disorder” and bristles at the “wisdom from above”. When he prays for the order granted by this wisdom, he accomplishes nothing; to the degree he wishes to be great, he “obtains nothing”, for in order to receive, he must be like a child: “peaceful, lenient, docile”. Only Jesus’ teaching resolves the inner conflict within man, a conflict in which he is entangled and from which he cannot free himself. Remember that in Christianity; in defenselessness, one can find the power of God at work.