Daily Reflection April 7 2008: St. John Baptist de la Salle

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About the Saint:

Born at Rheims, France, in 1651; he opened his first school for disadvantaged children in 1679 in Rheims, and later in Paris and Rouen. He formed a religious congregation to carry out the work of Christian education, insisting on a life of poverty, penance and prayer. He met with much opposition from his companions. He died at Rouen in 1719, he was Canonized in 1900.

Apart from his spiritual legacy, St. John Baptist de la Salle was a pioneer in educational practices. In establishing teacher training Colleges, distinct from the Ecclesiastical Seminaries of the day and in promoting the teaching of the French language in the vernacular. The boarding school which he founded in 1705 at Saint-Yon is widely considered to be the prototype for our modern secondary school institutions.

Amongst his published works are: Meditations pour tous les dimanches de l’annee 1710 and Conduite des ecoles chretiennes 1720.

Collect of the Day:

Father, you chose St. John Bapitst de la Salle to give young people a Christian education. Give your Church teachers who will devote themselves to helping your children grow as Christian men and Women.

We make our prayer through Jesus Christ your Son Our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever One God world without end. Amen.

Today’s Readings:

First Reading: II Timothy 1:13-14, 2:1-3: You have been entrusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

The Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5: Whoever welcomes such a child for my sake, welcomes me.

Today’s Gospel begins with the Disciples having a dispute over rank, who is going to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus’s reply was perplexing to say the least. He did not answer with a list of moral or spiritual qualities or a series of ascestic gymnastistics that one must perform to obtain this goal. Rather He called over a little child and set the child in front of them as an example and said “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

This as I said is somewhat perplexing, aren’t we as Christians called to be mature and responsible? Does not St. Paul tell us:

” When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I acted like a child, When I became a man, I put away my need for childish things! ”

This seems at least on the surface of things to contradict what Jesus is saying. Or does it? Is Jesus telling us that we need to be immature or petulant? I think not. If we look deeply at what Jesus is saying to his Disciples we find a great truth that when found can greatly enhance our spiritual lives.

Children are alive, energetic, playful, carefree, funloving and radiant. They are able to live in the moment, let themselves go and become completely absorbed in whatever they are engaged in. They are adventurous and live life to the fullest. These are amongst the spiritual lessons I believe that Jesus here is trying to impart to His followers. A key to this message can be found in the Sermon on the Mount:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

The Disciples were too much concerned with a future Kingdom that they were missing the very fact as Jesus told the Pharisee’s that the “Kingdom was in the midst of them.” Or “Within them” We as children of the New Covenant are already living in the Kingdom and as we partake in the Eucharist we are already sharing in the ‘Wedding Feast of the Lamb.’ Of course I am not denying any future element of the Kingdom, we live at present in a state of the now but not yet.

But if we concentrate solely on future events we miss what I like to term the ‘Eternal Now’. This afterall is all we have at present, we have no tomorrow for it never really comes, only a continuous Eternal Now. I think it can best be summed up by a Zen Probverb:

“It is like a finger pointing the way to the moon, if you concentrate on the finger you will miss all the heavenly glory.”

Msgr. Ian+

Closing Prayer:

In your providence, Lord God, you chose Saint John Baptist de la Salle to educate the young in Christian Faith. Raise up Lord, in the Church of today teachers who will devote themselves wholeheartedly to the human and Christian education of youth.

We make our prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever One God world without end. Amen.

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