Friday in the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17

Christ and Little Children

I am a father of two daughters and two grandchildren, and another on the way.  You can learn a lot from children.  One thing that I have learned from children is that their little sins, which we rightfully correct, are my sins, only writ much larger.  Their petty deeds of selfishness, temper tantrums, and even out and out lies, do not begin to compare to my larger and insidious deeds of selfishness, fits of anger, and, well, rationalizations.  If only I could similarly magnify in myself their humility, the amazing way they so easily forgive (especially their parents), and their purity of heart.

Which is all to say that little children aren’t perfect, by any means, but are sinners like the rest of us.  (However, they are generally better than we are.)  In this passage, people are bringing their children (Luke says, “even infants”) to Jesus to “touch them.”  The idea is that Jesus is blessing them.  Blessing is an important matter in the Bible.  It’s what parents are to do for their children every day as they raise them, by touching them in loving ways, saying encouraging words to them, showing them kindnesses.  Parents must understand that when they are raising children they are forming souls, and as Christians, we want to mold and shape them, intentionally, for the Kingdom.  Some of the most pitiful words in all the Bible are Esau’s plaintive cry: “Bless me, even me also, O my father,” and he “lifted up his voice and wept” (Genesis 27:38).  May those never be the words of our children.

That’s what these parents are doing by bringing their children to Jesus.  The disciples rebuke the parents; after all, they thought Jesus far too busy and important to bless little children.  But Jesus didn’t think so.  It says that Jesus was even “indignant,” saying, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.”  And then he adds, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Little children naturally trust their parents.  They believe every word we say.  They think we can do anything, pulling peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches out of a hat.  And they love us, even when we fail them.  This is what God wants from us; no, not the uninformed trust that children have, or the innocence that is rooted in ignorance (1 Corinthians 13:11), but the faith that believes every word of God, that trusts Him to provide for all our needs, and that loves Him, knowing that He will never fail.  And this is how we enter the Kingdom: borrowing the virtues of children, but filling them with Christ.

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