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THE CHILD-METAPHOR IN MATTHEW 18:1-14: Template for the Revitalization of the Charism of the Trinh Vuong Congregation

Nguyen Thi Thuy Van (Vietnam)

Master of Arts in Theological Studies with concentration in Biblical Theology
Fr. Felipe Fruto Ramirez, S.J., S.T.D. (Adviser)


The Trinh Vuong Congregation feels the need to renew and reinvigorate its charism so that it can live out its Evangelical Spiritual Childhood charism more intensely and undertake its mission more effectively in the contemporary world. For this, it is necessary to recover and revitalize the congregation’s charism based on its scriptural foundation: Mt 18:1-14 and 19:14-15.

The child or children in Mt 18:1-5 and Mt 19:14-15 are metonyms for people who are humble. Jesus teaches his disciples to be like them and to imbibe their childlike humility. The verb ταπεινόω has a multifaceted meaning: “to be humble” (James 4:10); “to submit or obey” (LXX Gen 16:9; Mt 26:42 // Mk 14:36 // Lk 22:42; Phil 2:6-8; 1 Pet 5:6), “to deny oneself” or “to deprive oneself” (LXX Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32), “to become poor” (LXX Lev 25:39; Phil 4:12). All these positive nuances are subsumed in Jesus’ teaching on “humility”.

The little ones in Mt 18:6-14 are also metonyms for people who are poor, weak, and vulnerable. Jesus teaches his disciples not to scandalize and despise the little ones. The reference to “angels who continually see the face of the Father in heaven” (Mt 18:10) seems to imply that God has appointed guardian angels to protect the little ones. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Mt 18:12-14) is meant to show that the Father in heaven does not wish to lose any of the little ones.

How, then, can Jesus’ teaching in Mt 18:1-14 provide a basis for understanding the charism of the Trinh Vuong Congregation? How can it help the congregation revitalize its charism and mission? Mt 18:4 affirms the vital role of the virtue of humility in the spirituality of the congregation. Jesus’ teaching to welcome a child (Mt 18:5) and not to hinder the little children from coming to him (cf. Mt 19:14) encourages the congregation to be hospitable and generous. Mt 18:5-14 presents a challenge to the Trinh Vuong Congregation to extend its mission to the little ones who are poor, weak, and vulnerable.

Final Defense:

12 February 2024, Monday, 3:00 p.m. at DLC 201, 2/F Dela Costa Bldg., Loyola School of Theology

Board of Examiners:

  1. Markus Locker, Ph.D. (Second Reader/Principal Examiner)
  2. Fr. Herbert Schneider, S.J., S.T.D.
  3. Fr. Clifard Sunil Ranjar, S.J., S.S.L., S.T.D

Proposal Defense:

28 November 2022, Monday, 3:00-4:15pm, DLC 201 (Tipanan ni San Ignacio), Dela Costa Bldg., 2/F LST

Board of Examiners:
1. Fr. Felipe Fruto Ramirez, S.J., S.T.D. (Adviser)
2. Fr. Herbert Schneider, S.J., S.T.D.
3. Markus Locker, Ph.D.

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Loyola School of Theology