The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain."
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets."
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me?"
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness."
The nations shall fear the name of the Lord
and all the earth's kings your glory,
when the Lord shall build up Zion again
and appear in all his glory.
Then he will turn to the prayers of the helpless;
he will not despise their prayers. (R./)
Let this be written for ages to come
that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord;
for the Lord leaned down from his sanctuary on high.
He looked down from heaven to the earth
that he might hear the groans of the prisoners
and free those condemned to die. (R./)
The sons of your servants shall dwell untroubled
and their race shall endure before you
that the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion
and his praise in the heart of Jerusalem,
when peoples and kingdoms are gathered together
to pay their homage to the Lord. (R./)
An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest."
John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you."
Children can give us a glimpse of the new Jerusalem, for Zechariah imagines the city with boys and girls playing in the streets; and in the Gospel Jesus turns to children to teach about who is greatest in the Kingdom of God.
By nature, children sparkle with life and enthusiasm, whereas many of Zechariah’s neighbours were weary of life. The prophet’s hopes for new life and bright future were greeted with a disbelieving yawn. On his advice and that of Haggai the people had rebuilt the temple. But the splendid hope of a new Jerusalem seemed impossible in their eyes. Zechariah imagines God asking, "Shall it; be impossible in my eyes also?"
Thinking of children make us think in terms of family and that means sharing possessions with the wider family. They make us ponder the mystery of life. As adults, we must think and consider all the responsibilities of life. But some secret part of our life belongs solely to God. Not only in the process of conception, pregnancy and birth, but also in many other important moments of our existence, we can have intuitions or inspirations which take us by surprise.
Children may quarrel, yes, but they quickly make up again. The gospel sketches two scenes of envy and pettiness. The disciples were arguing about which of them had the highest status. Jesus turns to some children and says that to welcome a child is to welcome him, and "The least one among you is the greatest." Jesus might even be applying this to himself. He is the least, at the service of all; and yet he is always the Father’s only son, receiving the Father’s life and then totally sharing it.
Rebuking his disciples for verbally arguing about which of them was the greatest, Jesus identifies himself with the least, like a child. In that time and culture children had no rights or power or influence. They were far from what the disciples wanted, in their dispute about rank and status. The Lord sides with those who are marginalised by society. He is present in the ordinary, in those who seem to have least to offer. Since he can be met in such everyday ways, it is easy to miss him. Of course, we meet him in a special way in the Eucharist, but our joining with Jesus in the Eucharist alerts us to the many ordinary, day-to-day ways in which we meet him and he meets us.