“The birth of a baby is a sure sign that God hasn’t given up on this world yet.” I read this quotation somewhere in the past. I don’t remember the author but in some ways it seems to reflect the attitude of Jesus himself. When I read today’s Gospel, he certainly let his apostles know that he felt in agreement. “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
In contrast, someone might feel sympathy with the apostles trying to send away the doting mothers with their restless young-ones. The apostles felt the intrusion and expected that Jesus probably did also. They wanted some time to relax and wanted Jesus to have the same. It’s was probably what we all experience in the 5:00 o’clock letdown and exhaustion after a hectic workday.
But the reaction of Jesus was unusual. “He became indignant” with his apostles. In each child’s beaming countenance Jesus saw the future of his Kingdom and hope for the world. He would sacrifice himself and the apostles would have to learn to do the same if they were to be his followers.
Then a bit of advice for his apostles and us. “Let the children come to me…for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” We may well question what Jesus means by “accepting the Kingdom of God like a child”? First of all, moral innocence is a given for all little children. Next, children respond naturally and spontaneously to a parent’s love with hugs and kisses. This love instinctively includes accepting parents’ restrictions and directives. Anyone who would “accept the Kingdom of God as a child” must strive to live with purity of conscience and respond with similar love, maybe not hugs and kisses, but with genuine affection for God and his Church.
Young children will automatically depend on their parents for their needs and sustenance. Maybe at times with questions “why”, but always with trust and confidence. We need a similar dependence on God and his Church in the essential of our faith. Finally, young children unconsciously realize that their parents want and do what is best for them. Are not God and his Church dedicated to providing for our spiritual well-being both now and for ever?
Unfortunately, some children grow up and feel liberated from their parents. They subscribe to their friends’ false attitudes and beliefs. And predictably, they reap the results often times harmful if not disastrous. Aren’t the consequences similar to what happens to some teenagers and adults who mimic these grown-up liberated children? They no longer feel a need to accept God’s Kingdom like little children. Hopefully one day they will recall what Jesus taught; “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
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