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Oct 1: St. Theresa of Lisieux

Isaiah 66:10-14/ Matthew 18:1-5

Generally speaking, our hand has five fingers. And we can assume that each finger has a significant purpose.

First of all, there is the thumb. It is often used to give the “thumbs-up” to mean that things are good and alright.

It is also important for the thumb-print for some legal documents.

The index finger is generally used to point in the general direction of things. 

To index means to point out or to show something, so that is why the second finger is called the index finger.

The third finger, or middle finger, which is the longest of the fingers, is used to help delicate functions like writing and typing. 

Then there is the fourth finger which is also called the ring finger.

And the last, which is also the smallest of all the fingers, is called the little finger, or also called the pinkie.

That little finger has this unique name because it originated from the Dutch language where the word “pinkie” is used to describe something tiny or small.

Hence the word “pinkie” would best describe the little finger.

So those are the names of the five fingers of the hand – the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger and the pinkie.

Of course, all the five fingers have a purpose. But which finger would we assume that has the least important function?

Without thinking too much, we might assume that it is the last finger, the little finger, the pinkie.

After all, in the Japanese organized crime, or the Yakuza, there is the Yubitsume ritual, or the cutting of one’s finger, as a form of penance or apology.

The transgressor must cut off the tip of his little finger, and give the severed portion to his boss.

But why the little finger, or the pinkie, and not the other fingers? Is it because the pinkie is the least important, and hence not much of a use?

Actually, on the contrary, the pinkie is the strongest finger of the hand.

In the traditional way of holding the Japanese sword, the last three fingers of each hand are used to grip the sword handle tightly, with the thumb and index fingers holding it loosely.

The little fingers of the two hands must grip the handle of the sword tightly. Because, surprisingly, the little finger is the strongest finger of the hand, in terms of gripping.

So by cutting off part of the little finger, the hand loses the proper grip of the sword.

And that would also symbolize a form of penance and apology and also submission to the boss.

But even in practical terms, just try to hold a hammer without the little finger gripping the handle. It won’t be that easy to hit a nail into the wall.

So it is surprising how much strength and power the little finger has, isn’t it?

It may be the smallest of all the fingers, it may be the last finger in the hand, it’s just a little finger, but it certainly has considerable strength.

In fact, losing the little finger can be very inconvenient. It may mean losing the grip of things, practically as well as symbolically.

So with this, we may be able to understand what Jesus meant when He said in the gospel: The one who makes himself as little as a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

It may not seem logical as to how the little ones are the greatest.

But that is the way of God. God’s ways are above man’s ways, His thoughts are above our thoughts.

In fact, God will cast away the proud and mighty, and He will raise up the little and the lowly.

Today we celebrate the feast-day of the patron saint of our parish, St. Teresa of Lisieux.

Her religious name is St. Teresa of the Child Jesus. And her way to holiness and eventually to sainthood is known as the “Little Way”.

She believed that God shows love by mercy and forgiveness. The way to approach God is to be like how a little child approaches its parent – with open arms and complete trust.

In fact, St. Teresa wrote that she could not understand how anyone could be afraid of a God who became a child in order to live among us.

St. Teresa showed how she lived out that “Little Way” by taking on all the lowly and humble tasks in her convent.

She worked as a sacristan taking care of the altar and chapel. She served in the refectory and in the laundry room. She took care of the old and sick sisters.

Her life was just so routine, mundane and ordinary. But she did small things with great love.

She even had another name – The Little Flower. Because in all she did, she offered it as a little flower to Jesus.

She was just so child-like in her faith, but within 28 years of her death, she was canonized and is now a great saint.

St. Teresa was like that last finger of the hand – small and little, yet strong and powerful.

St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower, has taught us and shown us that in the small, little and lowly, God’s mighty love and power is shown.

That will also remind us that in Psalm 8:2, there is this verse that says : From the lips of children and infants, you Lord, have built a fortress against your enemies and to silence the foe.

Hence it is of great importance to teach our children to pray and to help them pray in a simple and little way.

Yet it is in the simple and humble prayers of children and even of infants that will turn on God’s mighty love and power.

It is in their simple and humble prayers that we will find the solution to our problems and difficulties.

It is in their simple and humble prayers that we will realize that power is found not in the thumb but in the last little finger.

And that should make us want to be like little children because God favours the lowly, the little and the humble.

So all the more we should want to pray with our children because their prayer is mighty and powerful.

Jesus said that anyone who welcomes a little child in His name welcomes Him.

St. Teresa took that little way and she found Jesus.

As for us, it’s either the little way, or no other way. (S.Y.)