Dt 31:1-8; Dt 32:3,4,7-9,12; Mt 18:1-5,10,12-14
Our hearts break out in joyful song when we hear the Word of the Lord. Our first reading and the responsorial are both taken from the book of Deuteronomy, the book of the second telling of the great things the LORD has done for his people. Moses wanted the people to never forget the LORD’s renown. His renown is revealed in the sacrifice of his faithful and loving servants. Our ancestors in the faith have sung for generations the memory of the God who rescued them from slavery and oppression. We inherit their great rejoicing because their freedom is our freedom. No matter what tyrants arise in history, we still sing and rejoice in our Liberator, the LORD God Almighty. He sent his Son, the Lord Jesus, to be the true Liberator of every tribe and nation; The LORD risks everything to save the lost. This is the same love we remember in the sacrifice of every Mass. This love alone enables us to be free enough to pick up our cross every day and follow Christ to the mount of Calvary and into the glory of the resurrection.
In his final address to the children of Israel, Moses appoints his faithful servant Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land. Moses accepts his punishment for not trusting in the Lord’s command to speak to the rock. He struck the rock to unseal the water and this act of rebellion sealed his fate. Moses is not resentful; he accepts the consequence of his action. Instead of bitterness his attitude is one of grateful acceptance and peaceful movement into the future. Israel, too, must accept this decree of God and not become bitter. Moses calls them to accept their new leader, Joshua. “It is the LORD who marches before you; he will be with you and never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.” Do not let my punishment discourage you. The Lord is with you and gives you a new leader. You need not fear the struggle ahead of you; the Lord is faithful to his promise. In God you will triumph, and Joshua will lead you to victory.
This Faithful God speaks through His Son to the disciples who approach him in today’s gospel with the question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Greatness is seen through the eyes of the Lord Jesus in the person of a child. Only as children will we have enough trust and openness to accept the mystery of our greatness. Only as children can we see the greatness of the Kingdom. Only as children, powerless and unimportant, can we receive all that the Lord has to give us. The great and powerful in this world cannot see nor receive the gift of true dignity and real greatness. So completely ineffable is the mystery of the Kingdom of heaven that the Lord Jesus tells yet another mini parable. He speaks of a love for the one sheep gone astray that enables a shepherd to risk losing the ninety-nine in the hills by going to search and find the lost one. The adult and worldly-wise disciples can only be puzzled by such compassion. Why would any shepherd in his right mind risk loosing his livelihood by taking off after the one sheep gone astray. It makes no economic sense. Such is the mystery of the cross. Such is the mystery of every Catholic priest offering himself for the life of all of God’s People. In every generation the Son of God and the Son of Mary makes known his greatness. Such is the greatness of love to which we are called in this Eucharist.