Chapter I: From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church
In this number Pope Paul VI reveals Jesus’ reasons for working miracles. It was to win people to follow Him: “to draw them to him in the desire of serving him, hearing him and letting themselves be changed by him.” Jesus was always doing the will of His Father (Jn 4:34). His Father wanted Jesus to be the leader of His kingdom (Heb 2:8), so Jesus wanted this too. At times, however, He seems to have had other immediate goals for His miracles (cf. Mt 14:14), i.e. He worked them on the spur of the moment because He felt pity for those who suffered.
But Jesus sees one sign of the Kingdom as particularly important: “The poor, the ‘little ones,’ have the Good News preached to them.” They, however, do not merely hear the Good News, but rather become also His disciples and the first ones to follow Him. They are “to form the first community of those who believe in him.”
Who are these “little ones?” Who are these poor to whom Jesus sees He must go with His words and deeds? They certainly are the economically deprived. But the group is much more than that. They are all those who are poor in spirit (Mt 5:3), i.e. all those who are open hearted toward God and His kingdom. This includes rich people who are willing to sacrifice all they have for the kingdom (cf. Mt. 19:16-22). Matthew was one such person (Mt. 9:9-13). He was probably rich, since he was a tax collector. Yet he left all and became one of the apostles.
The collection of the little and the poor into the kingdom will happen only after the death and resurrection of Jesus, for it is these works of mercy that win the grace of conversion for the little ones and the poor. So it is that Jesus verifies His words about the Kingdom by His miracles and signs, but especially by His death and resurrection.
Last of all, He sent the Holy Spirit of Truth upon those who had come to believe in Him. This completed the work of our redemption for all time. Future generations would receive Jesus and His teaching through the Church. They would not see Him with their bodily eyes but only in faith. Their faith is based on what the Church under the influence of the Holy Spirit now teaches about Jesus and His Kingdom.
Jesus came “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God.” Among those “dispersed children” were and are also some who were and are rich economically. They are among the “little ones” because they have come to be small in their own estimation. They have become like little children because only children are welcome in heaven (Mt 18:3).
Let us call on Mary, Mother of the Church, for the conversion of the poor and little ones in the world: Mary, look down on your children. Fill everyone with a spirit of poverty, so that they will be ready to hear the word of God and accept it. Amen.