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Their angels in heaven constantly see the face of my Father who is in heaven

Posté par diaconos le 2 octobre 2020

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From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said to him : « Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven ?  »  Then Jesus called a little child and set him in the midst of them and said : « Amen, I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  But whosoever shall be made small as this child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this one in my name, he welcomes me. »  Beware lest you despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of my Father who is in heaven.  (Mt 18, 1-5.10)

From the spirit of the kingdom of heaven

According to Mark and Luke, they discussed among themselves the question : « Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  » and Jesus asked them what they were talking about. The question presupposes that the disciples were still thinking of a glorious earthly kingdom, in which such and such would be greater than the others.

But Jesus’ answer showed that he saw a selfish and proud preoccupation manifested in their discussion. The disciples were not healed by Jesus’ instruction. The salient feature that Jesus noted in the little child he offered as an example was humility : « He who humbles himself the most will be the greatest. »

What made the little child so charming was the feeling he had of his own weakness and dependence ; it was also the confidence with which he looked at his mother and expected everything from her, listened to her, questioned her, believed her, loved her. Man’s natural dispositions are quite the opposite, either towards God or towards his neighbour.

In order to become morally like the little child again, he must turn to God and be made a partaker of his Spirit. Otherwise he excludes himself from the kingdom of heaven not only in its future and glorious realisation, but already in its present manifestation, because of the very nature of that kingdom. Jesus’ answer was : « Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him,  »  How can a man be born when he is old ? Can he go into his mother’s womb and be born ? Jesus answered : «   Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  » (Jn 3:3-5)

Jesus answered the disciples’ question. But He wanted to draw from his lesson a consequence that necessarily followed. It is impossible to have become humble and small before God without being moved by compassion and love for the small and humble, whom the ambitious despise. Jesus himself loved them to the point of identifying with them.

Thus to receive with love, to protect, to care for one of these little ones is to receive him himself, as long as it takes place in his name, out of love for him: « The king will answer them :  « Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done these things unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done them unto me. « (Mit 25:40).

Was the thought of Jesus limited here to little children, thus recommended to the charity of his disciples, or was this thought generalised to embrace also humble, small, abandoned adults? The exegetes were divided on this question. But why? Is it not in the nature of charity that Jesus recommends extending it to all? The context, moreover, leaves no doubt in this regard.

Jesus returned to his discourse on the little ones, which he forbade not only to scandalise, but to despise out of pride; to value them, to love them, to have tender compassion for them, was the positive side of this negative precept. Jesus gave as the reason for his recommendation a word that was discussed at length. Some of them, symbolising thought, reduced it to saying that these little ones who should not be despised are precious in the eyes of the heavenly Father, who takes special care of them.

This thought, true in its generality, cannot suffice for exegesis, which must never erase, in a dogmatic interest, the idea expressed in a text.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian sites on the Internet

◊ Yves I-Bing Cheng, M.D., M.A. : click here to read the paper → Their angels always behold the face of my father whois in heaven

◊  Twzzting with Got : click here to read the paper →   Are there really angels in heaven ?

Roman road : « Their Angels do Always Behold the Face of God »

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