26Feb Saturday in the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Sir 17:1ff. God made us in the divine image, and looks with favour on us so that we may praise his holy name.

Mark 10:13ff. Jesus embraces and blesses the children who come to him, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.

Young and Old in the Community

The human community is viewed from several angles in today’s texts. Sirach makes a grand sweeping reflection, to include all the families and communities of earth, while Mark has Jesus turn attention to the children. From Sirach we have the impression that families and communities cannot survive without close bonds of loyalty, love and obedience; James shows our need of the advice, prayers and blessing of the elders; and then Mark teaches how children model for us the correct attitude for belonging to the Kingdom of God.

It is good to begin with Sirach where the dignity of human nature and of family relationships is stated with absolute certainty, “The Lord created humankind from the earth and made us to the divine image.” Even if the material substance is earthly, our shape, form and way of acting and thinking image the divine. Sirach reaches into the details of our bodily existence: He God forms the human tongues and eyes and ears and imparts to them an understanding heart.

God has no material body. Therefore, our imaging the divine life must be in our actions with one another, our bonds of love and loyalty, our creativity and fruitfulness, our planting of marvellous mysteries at the heart of our actions. When God “looks with favour on our hearts,” the divine image becomes apparent to others. “He shows his glorious works.” Sirach sees the need of honesty and integrity; he recognizes the evil of sham and make-believe. Our “ways are ever known to him; they cannot be hidden from his eyes.” Last of all, Sirach reaches outward to the world family of nations. He confesses the special election of Israel, who is “the Lord’s own portion.” That unique choice is available to all men and women through faith in Jesus. Here is the most complete blessing on family and the most perfect of all divine images.

Today Mark draws us to the children within the family. Here Jesus states a message inscribed deeply in the gospel and in our memory: It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. From children the adults are asked to learn about the kingdom of peace and forgiveness, of life and hope, of trust and faith. We must never be too busy or too preoccupied to seek these virtues. The disciples considered Jesus’ time and energy too precious for the Master to be distracted and bothered with the children whom “people were bringing… to have him touch them.” At this Jesus became “indignant.” Jesus, we are told, “embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them.” This human touch unites all three readings: Jesus embracing the children; the elders laying hands on the sick and anointing them, God forming the tongues and eyes and ears of the human body. We must reach out and touch-of such is the Kingdom of God.

First Reading: Sirach 17:1-15

The Lord created human beings out of earth, and makes them return to it again.

He gave them a fixed number of days, but granted them authority over everything on the earth.

He endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them in all living beings, and gave them dominion over beasts and birds.

Discretion and tongue and eyes, ears and a mind for thinking he gave them.

He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil.

He put the fear of him into their hearts to show them the majesty of his works.

And they will praise his holy name, to proclaim the grandeur of his works.

He bestowed knowledge upon them, and allotted to them the law of life.

He established with them an eternal covenant, and revealed to them his decrees.

Their eyes saw his glorious majesty, and their ears heard the glory of his voice.

He said to them, “Beware of all evil.”

And he gave commandment to each of them concerning the neighbour.

Their ways are always known to him; they will not be hid from his eyes.

Gospel: Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.