The Greatest Commandment And The Smallest Child

The Greatest Commandment And The Smallest Child

by Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

The Atrium of Saint Basil’s Parish has begun a new year. Just as the returning children have grown, so has our Atrium. As I write this, we have completed two full weekends (six sessions) in the Atrium, and it is easy to reflect on the words of the Gospel today. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus tells his disciples: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind […] And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” In a world full of noise, never ending To-Do Lists, and conflicts, it is hard to believe that these two commandments can be fully lived out by anyone. But I promise you that every Sunday these commandments are joyfully lived out by the children in the Atrium.

The youngest child, who is three years old, does not come to learn these commandments word for word till they are much older but as catechists we are always helping the child grow in their love for God and one another. One of the very first words the children are introduced to is Alleluia! Praise God! We repeat the word over and over. We sing the word with our whole bodies, with loud voices, and big gestures. And we praise God for the gifts we are given. The gift of our life, the gift of being present in the Atrium, and the gift of each other. Every week the children are presented with new work, new songs, and new words that brings them closer to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd. Hearing the words, “I love God,” from a child’s mouth is a moment of Alleluia for the catechists in the Atrium.

The youngest child in the Atrium loves with their whole heart and this creates an environment where everyone loves their neighbour as they love themselves. One of the first things the children learn about the Atrium is that it is a place of quiet where we respect one another’s work and space. But how do I know love overflows in the Atrium? At the end of every single session we place Holy Water on one another’s forehead and bless one another “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Not only do the children love receiving the gift of one another’s blessing but they love blessing each other. No one leaves the room feeling unloved. It is my favourite part of every session and another Alleluia moment.

As we begin a new year in the Atrium we ask for you to pray for the catechists and children of the Atrium. Let us also pray that each one of us can take a moment this weekend and love God with the heart of the smallest child.

Sunday’s Readings:

Exodus 22.21-27

Psalm 18

1 Thessalonians 1.5c-10

Matthew 22.34-40