Sir 17:1-15; Ps 103:13-18; Mk 10:13-16: Our responsorial psalm invites us to rejoice in the compassion of the LORD for those who fear him. We are summoned to delight in the eternal kindness of the LORD for those who fear him. What do kindness and compassion have to do with fear? What is this fear? It is a very specific kind of fear—the fear of the LORD. Indeed, we are not afraid of God; we are not afraid that God will smite us, wipe us out forever. We are not afraid of God, but we do live in the fear of the LORD. This is the kind of fear that arises out of love. When you feel the tender compassion of the Father, you do not ever want to be out of his favor. When you enjoy the generous kindness of the Father, you never want to be without it. We have the power to forget that we are dust. We can refuse to remember that if the LORD did not remember us we would cease to exist. We can interpret every good gift in our life as just a random event. Never the less, the LORD has compassion because he remembers that he formed us out of the dust of the earth and to that dust we will return. Our days are numbered before one of them exists. We are contingent beings; we did not create ourselves, and we cannot redeem ourselves. All our days are like those of grass; like a flower of the field we bloom and then the wind sweeps over us and we are gone, and our place knows us no longer. Not only are we contingent; we are fragile. The Father has chosen to make and keep a covenant with us. His justice is upon his children’s children. It is this justice and favor of the LORD that we can discard if we so choose. We can rebel against the covenant and deny the wisdom of God’s law. We are so tempted and so inclined day in and day out. This painful truth gives birth to the fear of the LORD. We are afraid of any desire and every decision to turn away from the compassion and kindness of the One Who Made Us. Sirach ponders the truth of our being created in the image and likeness of our creator. The Lord Jesus invites his followers to never forget that we are beloved children. We taste and see that the LORD is good every time we celebrate the covenant made with us in the Blood of Christ.
We number our days aright because we are filled with the wisdom of God. The LORD himself gives us the strength to live in the face of death. We are contingent and fragile beings, but we have a dignity that comes from being made in the image of our Maker. Though our days are limited we have power over all things else on earth. All the creatures of our God and King live in fear of man and woman, and for a good reason—they have been given us for food. Beyond mere physical prowess, we are created for counsel, for perception and communication, for creativity and inventiveness, and for the knowledge of good and evil. The LORD shares with each person the ability to discern what is good and worth our every effort. The gift of our conscience also helps us to avoid separating ourselves from the LORD and one another. The Father has created in us the knowledge of the spirit; we know that a transcendent world lies ahead of us and deep within us. Nothing less than wisdom fills the human heart; it is a priceless treasure. Through the gift of God our eyes behold the wonder of his deeds and our ears are filled with the sound of his voice and of voices are filled with the praise of his Name. The covenant relationship with God gives us knowledge of the law of life and his justice becomes the basis of our judgments. Indeed, we are God’s own portion. All our actions are clear as the sun to God’s sight and the LORD’s eyes are upon all our ways. It is this wisdom that knows God’s infinite and intimate love. Such knowledge keeps us in his ways and gives us the strength to face anything in life—even death.
In every generation what parent does not want to bring children to the Lord Jesus? They wanted the Lord to touch and bless their children. Perhaps the child has a problem—emotional or physical. Perhaps the parent wants the Lord to provide for a blessed future by his divine touch. Such parental concern survives today. However, this passage is not so much about children as it is about discipleship. The Lord Jesus is indignant when his followers attempt to keep the children away from him. Perhaps they felt that these kids were wasting the Master’s time. Perhaps they felt that these kids were distracting the crowd too much. We cannot be sure about the parents’ motives—however, we can be sure about this teachable moment and the teaching the Lord Jesus has for his followers. An indignant Christ reprimanded the disciples. This perfect anger in the Lord Jesus reveals the childlike qualities necessary for being part of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is always a gift. We do not earn the Kingdom. We do not build it or sing it into existence. We must receive it. We are powerless children who are in absolute need for the attention and approval of our parents or family. Only children enter into the Kingdom of God. If we do not see ourselves as children, we need to ask for the vision that faith alone can give. In this Mass we seek to be embraced as the children we are. We long to have the Lord Jesus place his hands on us and fill us with the joy of the Kingdom, already here and yet to come in its fullness.