Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Challenge of Conversion to Child-like Nothingness


“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Children are seldom regarded as role models. In fact, children are always taught to imitate the good examples of the adults. They are always told that they still have many things to learn and to experience. “Marami ka pang kakaining bigas,” the usual admonition they would receive from adults, would imply that their lack of experience disqualifies them from being models.

However, when asked about greatness in the kingdom of heaven, the Lord Jesus puts a child in the midst of his disciples and tells them, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” When we look at the image of the Santo Nino, we see the real implication of these words of the Lord. In the Santo Nino, we see Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords and yet has become a little child. By his incarnation, God the Son, in assuming human nature, became a little child. He humbled himself like a child. He became a child…and therefore, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In the humility of his childhood, Jesus remained to be who he is: God’s only begotten Son in whom the Father was well pleased. His humanity never diminished in any way his divinity. He continues to be the one to whom is given every authority in heaven and on earth. This little child is for ever Wonder-counselor, God-hero, Father-forever, and Prince of Peace. His dominion is forever peaceful. As David’s successor, his power is based on right and justice.

By the mystery of his childhood, the Lord Jesus prepared for us the path to greatness in the kingdom of heaven. He challenges us to conversion: “Unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Fr. Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus said: “…to become authentic children of God, to receive truly all the benefits of the Incarnation and partake of them, whoever we may be, rich or poor, we must be truly poor.” St. John of the Cross has underlined this poverty: “Try always to prefer…not what is easiest, but most difficult; not what is most delightful, but most difficult; not what is most satisfying, but unpleasant; not what is restful, but laborious; not what brings consolation, but what does not; not having more, but having less; not what is most desirable, but no one wants; not wanting something, but wanting nothing; not seeking the best, but the worst; in short try always to prefer the desire to be stripped of everything, in poverty, for the sake of Christ.” (John of the Cross, Ascent to Mount Carmel, book 1, chapter 13.)
Fr. Marie Eugene said that it is by realizing in life this self-emptying (poverty) that we reach spiritual childhood. “This state of littleness, or complete and absolute poverty is the condition for bringing about the perfect incarnation of grace in our souls; it leaves God free to accomplish in us the plenitude of grace that he has prepared for us for all eternity.” (Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus, Emmanuel: When
God walked on our land, p. 100.)

Becoming like a child is not as easy as it seems to be. It involves a real conversion to nothingness: a conversion to having pleasure in nothing, to wish to possess nothing, to desire to be nothing, to wish to know nothing. Seeing how we crave to possess every known pleasure and satisfaction, we realize that this conversion is indeed difficult. Would any of us who is earning his own money would want to return to becoming a penniless child? Would we, who have experienced the joy of independence, even want to return to a child’s dependence on his parents for his most basic needs? It is difficult to be like a child with nothing of his own. To go down this way of child-like nothingness is to pass through the narrow door.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.  

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