First Reading: Ezekiel 2:8-3:4
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119
Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
In the gospel today we are told that the greatest in heaven are those who are like children. What is it about the child that makes them the greatest? Is it their unshakable faith? Is it their complete trust and loyalty to people and things? Is it their amazing ability to believe without seeing? Maybe it is their joy and playfulness that makes them great. My guess is that it is not just one thing, in fact I believe that there are many things about our faith that we could learn from children.
Today I think that we all should reflect on what it means to have the faith of a child. I think that this can best be done by sharing a story. This is the story of Saint Tarcisius, taken from the book "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens. Here is the story of Saint Tarcisius.
Tarcisius was a twelve-year-old acolyte during one of the fierce Roman persecutions of the third century, probably during that of Valerian. Each day, from a secret meeting place in the catacombs where Christians gathered for Mass, a deacon would be sent to the prisons to carry the Eucharist to those Christians condemned to die. At one point, there was no deacon to send and so St. Tarcisius, an acolyte, was sent carrying the "Holy Mysteries" to those in prison.
On the way, he was stopped by boys his own age who were not Christians but knew him as a playmate and lover of games. He was asked to join their games, but this time he refused and the crowd of boys noticed that he was carrying something. Somehow, he was also recognized as a Christian, and the small gang of boys, anxious to view the Christian "Mysteries," became a mob and turned upon Tarcisius with fury. He went down under the blows, and it is believed that a fellow Christian drove off the mob and rescued the young acolyte.
The mangled body of Tarcisius was carried back to the catacombs, but the boy died on the way from his injuries. He was buried in the cemetery of St. Callistus, and his relics are claimed by the church of San Silvestro in Capite.
I have heard it say that Tarcisius never once let go of the "holy mysteries" and when the fellow christian came to rescue him, he immediately asked if the Eucharist is safe. Now I don't usually get too emotional during stories or movies, but I cannot help but get a little choked up when I hear or think about the story of St. Tarcisius.
Here is a twelve year old boy who shows us what it means to be a courageous christian. This boy gave his life for Christ and to protect one of the things that we hold most dear, which is the Holy Eucharist. This boy definitely got what being a follower of Christ is all about. St. Tarcisius shows us why those who are like children are the greatest in heaven. By being humble and believing without seeing, children show us every day how we can be better followers of Christ. Do you have the faith like a child?
Father in heaven, we thank you for the examples of your faithful followers like Saint Tarcisius. Lord, increase our faith so that we might follow you no matter what obstacles we might encounter. Lord, let your will be done in our lives, and let us praise you always. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.