Child-Like Faith

One of the most striking aspects of the life of Jesus is his capacity to transform difficult occasions into opportunities to reveal an aspect of his mission and the Kingdom of God. Today we have another opportunity to learn more about our mission as disciples and the mystery of the Kingdom of God.

Children’s Encounter with Jesus

St Matthew tells us that “Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay hands on them and pray for them”. It is good to note that in the Jewish tradition, parents bless their children on Friday evening, on Shabbat day, and other special occasions. They use the words taken from the priestly blessing of the book of Numbers 6:24-26. This means that blessing of Children is a common religious practice among the Jews. However, in today’s Gospel the disciples of Jesus acted otherwise.

The Primary Mission of Disciples

The first thing that captured my attention in today’s Gospel is seeing that the disciples of Jesus who were supposed to facilitate the encounter of these children with their Master became obstacles to them. That notwithstanding, Jesus adopted a completely different attitude and said to them: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”. Thus, Jesus underlines what should be the primary mission of all disciples; bringing others to him, helping especially the less privileged, the voiceless, and those neglected by society to have access to Jesus and experience his divine touch and blessing.

Our Attitude Towards Others

In our society today, many are in search of meaning to their lives, solutions to their problems, desperately looking for salvation. As Christians, are we concerned about how to help facilitate the encounter with Jesus or do we behave like the disciples in today’s Gospel? It is obvious that our attitudes speak louder than our words and this is also applicable in the faith realm. Could this be the reason Jesus condemned in strong terms scandalous attitudes among Christians? (cf Mt 18, 5-6).

The Kingdom of God Belongs to the Child-like

As paradoxical as it might look, the attitude of the disciples became an occasion for Jesus to make this revelation about the Kingdom of heaven: “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (Children).” Jesus is not saying that children are saints, that they do not commit sins or do stupid things. Rather Jesus is saying that children have something to teach us as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned.

Looking at the positive aspects in the life of children, we can learn from them how to marvel at new realities. Jesus himself is the New Reality of the Kingdom, and thus to come to him is to come to experience the Kingdom of God. Jesus proved this by his works and teachings. He often said: “The Kingdom of God is in your midst”. Apparently, this was difficult for the disciples to understand.

To recognize the new reality of the Kingdom of God manifested in the life and teachings of Jesus, one needs to develop a child-like faith; faith that does not limit or reduce God to the limits of human reasoning.

Let us remember here another biblical episode where the disciples argued among themselves to know who was the greatest. Jesus, after speaking to them, places a child in their midst and tells them that whoever receives a child in his name receives him and whoever receives him receives the One who sent him. Although he is the Son of the Most High God, Jesus humbled himself, came and shared our humanity. Thus, he teaches us humility, self-emptying, simplicity, and God’s proximity to us. The disciples, with their adult minds, saw children with their noise and disorder, etc, but Jesus saw in them heirs of Kingdom of God! What a great lesson for us today!

Kingdom of God is a Gift and Not a Merit

Furthermore, we see that children depend on their parents and elders for their growth. As a result of this, children would easily express their gratitude by saying “thank you”; they understand that what they receive is not by merit but a gift which is also a mark of love from their parents and elders. In the light of Jesus’s teaching, we understand also that the Kingdom of God is not by merit; it is, rather, a gift God offers to His children; a sign of God’s love for us.

Kingdom of God Offered to Those with Child-like Faith

Given the fact that the Kingdom of God is a gift offered to us, we are expected to receive it as such. What is important then is the disposition of the heart that receives it. This has to do also with what is called child-like faith; a faith lived in simplicity and with humility. Receiving the Kingdom of God as a gift contrasts with the dominant mentality which in the time of Jesus considered the strict observance of the law of Moses as paramount in the relation with God, but also as condition for the Kingdom. Jesus invites us to look at the Kingdom with new eyes, new minds, and new spirit. Without considering as caduc the Laws of Moses, Jesus makes us understand that the observance of the divine laws should lead us closer to God, experience his blessings, God’s touching hands, joy, and not the contrary.

Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God represents all that is new and thus should be embraced with new hearts, mind, and spirit just as the birth of a child in family represents new life, new promise, etc.

Our capacity to receive the newness of life that Jesus has brought to us depends also on our willingness to embrace his call for conversion of heart. Those who come to Jesus with simplicity of heart and faith always receive his blessings, his embrace, and love. As disciples of Jesus, we need to be constantly renewed in our hearts, minds, and spirit to be able to recognize the newness of the Kingdom of Love he has brought to us. Experiencing this leads to greater liberty and increases our capacity to marvel at the wonders of God even in a violent world.

[Readings: Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32; Mt 19:13-15]

Fr. Alex Igbozuruike

Fr Alexius. C. IGBOZURIKE, is a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He is a chaplain at our Lady of Lourdes’ Sanctuary in France. To contact him, Sanctuaire Notre Dame de Lourdes, Maison des Chapelains, 1 Avenue Mgr. Théas, 65108, Lourdes Cedex, France. Email : [email protected]

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