St. Bede the Venerable

HOMILY WEEK 07 06 – Year II

The Virtue of Childlikeness:

Optional Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable

(Jm 5:13-20; Ps 141; Mk 10:13-16)


A set of parents finally managed to convince their precocious son that Jesus was really risen from the dead. As that truth settled on him, a gleam appeared in his eye and he headed straight for the door with a determined look on his face. When his parents asked him where he was going, he replied, “Does grandpa know about this? I got’ta go tell him!”

The readings today invite us to be both prayerful and childlike in a way that communicates God’s good news.

So often in the gospels, the disciples of Jesus just don’t get his message and act contrary to what he is teaching. In today’s account, they sternly try to protect Jesus from the children crowding around, and Jesus has to indignantly chide them, teaching them an important lesson while doing so: childlikeness is the key criteria for living in the reign of God.

What Jesus did not mean was being childish. There are some adults who are still childish in their behavior and attitude, who have never really grown up. They may have lacked love in their family of origin, the love may have been present but not available to them, or there may have been some trauma that has severely marked them, especially if they have never dealt with it. A characteristic of this is the need to get attention through loud, inappropriate or self-centered behavior. Amazingly, in some that can persist even into old age!

To be childlike is to be humble, trusting, playful, prayerful, transparent, honest, innocent, loyal, have a sense of awe towards creation, faith in a God who created all and who loves that creation, and joy at just being alive. These are the qualities we need to pray for and try to cultivate. I am often amazed at how trusting some children are as I play a trust game with them – inviting them to become stiff as a board, hands by their side, and fall back, trusting that I will catch them. That is the childlikeness Jesus is wanting us to have.

James, in the first reading, in his own childlikeness, offers us some important child-like behaviours we can practice as adults. One is to be open to the sacrament of the sick when we are not well or advanced in years. It is unfortunate that when this anointing became formalized as a sacrament in the 12th century, it became known as Extreme Unction for the dying. That scares some people away from receiving this sacrament to this day.

Fr. Al Hubenig OMI tells the story of explaining this sacrament as a prayer for the sick and not the dying to an Italian man in a hospital, in Italian. After he finished and thought the man understood, Fr. Al asked if he would like to receive the sacrament of the sick, to which the elderly gentleman replied in Italian, “Not today, Father – maybe later when I feel better!”

Another child-like action James encourages is the sacrament of reconciliation, including some very pertinent teaching about reconciliation that we somehow missed for centuries – that forgiveness and healing go together as part of the sacrament. Here is how he puts it: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

So, confessing our sins is not just about forgiveness – it also includes an openness to healing. That is important because of the difference between sin (our hurtful actions for which we need forgiveness) and sinfulness (our painful emotions, negative attitudes and addictions that cause us to sin in the first place, and for which we need healing). Without that healing, we will simply sin all over again in the same way, in a repetitious pattern that is all too common.

That fits with the two-fold role Jesus had as the Messiah – to redeem and to sanctify, to forgive and to heal. So, we need to come to him for both forgiveness and healing in our childlikeness, and we will live much more fully in the kingdom of God.

In one parish, a healing mass had been organized at which I was presiding. One young man came up and very ashamedly asked for healing of his addiction to pornography. I briefly shared with him how God can hold male and female energy together, but we can’t – so being created in the image and likeness of God leaves a gaping incompletion and longing for wholeness and consummation within us. That is a holy longing, a divine fire, an Eros that is a desire to see the face of God. However, it is to be used according to God’s will and never in a selfish way, as Jesus never used his divine power for a selfish purpose. So, we prayed for healing in that area of his life. Two weeks later, he came to the same parish for mass and told me that that prayer had certainly helped him. James is right – prayer is powerful and effective.

St. Bede the Venerable

A teacher of great repute, St. Bede the Venerable is the only English Doctor of the Church. Born in the north of England about 673, he was sent to a Benedictine monastery at the age of 7, and was educated in a neighboring monastery, where he remained for the rest of his life. At age 19, he became a deacon and at 30, a priest. Bede was considered the most learned man of his time and a gifted writer. Though he excelled in biblical commentary and history, he also wrote extensively in other areas, including poetry, biography and chronology. His most famous work is the authoritative Historia ecclesiastica (Ecclesicasical History of the English People), the only source for much early Anglo-Saxon history. His particular gift seems to have been his ability to recognize, with precision and clarity, the needs of his contemporaries and to judge accurately the historical significance of the events he and they were living through. His wisdom and learning earned him the respectful title of “Venerable,” which the Church formalized in 853. He died on this day in 735.

The Eucharist is our family meal at which we are all God’s children. May our celebration empower us to be prayerful, childlike followers of Jesus, full of joy and love for all.


Updated: May 25, 2024 — 2:57 am

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