The Malta Independent on Sunday

On littleness


In a world which exalts the powerful and the machos, in many ways being little is senseless. In fact, for the arrogant it is sheer folly! Yet, for those who really want to be great they have to be little.

This is what I gathered from Pope Francis’ homily on the occasion of his visit marking the 1050thanni­versary of the ‘Baptism of Poland’ in a Mass which he celebrated at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochow­a late last month. The Pope’s incisive words vividly reminded me of Jesus’ joyous exclamatio­n as recorded by the evangelist Matthew. “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understand­ing and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will” (Matt 11:25-26).

For Jesus our Father has a soft spot for the little ones! That is why he invites us to be simple, starting from our way of thinking! “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt 6:25-29).

If God has left his indelible mark of simplicity and humility on the birds of the air or the lilies of the field, how much more his littleness is resplenden­t in his Son Jesus Christ? God made man. Pope Francis explained: “It is particular­ly striking how the coming of God into history came about: he was ‘born of a woman’. There was no triumphal entrance or striking epiphany of the Almighty. He did not reveal himself as a brilliantl­y rising sun, but entered the world in the simplest of ways, as a child born of a mother, with that ‘style’ that Scripture tells us is like a rainfall upon the land (cf. Is 55:10), like the smallest of seeds which sprouts and grows (cf. Mk 4:3132). Thus, contrary to our expectatio­ns and perhaps even our desires, the kingdom of God, now as then, ‘does not come in a way that attracts attention’ ( Lk 17:20), but rather in littleness, in humility.”

For Pope Francis God is close to us “by making himself little, near and real”. For Francis “God makes himself little” by “lov[ing] the little ones, to whom the kingdom of God is revealed ( Mt11: 25); they are great in his eyes and he looks to them (cf. Is 66:2). The little ones speak his own language, that of the humble love that brings freedom. So he calls the simple and receptive to be his spokespers­ons; he entrusts to them the revelation of his name and the secrets of his heart”.

Secondly God makes himself near. He “loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us”. For this reason he invites us, his Church, “to listen, to get involved and be neighbours, sharing in people’s joys and struggles, so that the Gospel can spread every more consistent­ly and fruit- fully: radiating goodness through the transparen­cy of our lives”.

Finally, God makes himself real. God acts really and concretely. The Pope commented: “The Word becomes flesh, is born of a mother, is born under the law (cf. Gal 4:4), has friends and goes to a party. The eternal is communicat­ed by spending time with people and in concrete situations”.

In a world scourged by arrogance and pride let us turn to the Lord and pray to him for the grace of littleness.

Therefore, we must ask the Lord to makes us little to be receptive of his heart’s secrets. Make us near so that we can be a brother and a sister to the people we meet who need our help. And to make us real to spend time with others. Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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