And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let thechildren come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it.Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16
Rachel was a cute, entertaining, and precocious two year old. For good reasons, everyone loved her. But one Sunday at my parents’ church, when she decided to investigate the aisle and walk to the front as the sermon was preached, an audible gasp rose from the congregants. The pastor paused and stopped my mother from reaching out to pull Rachel back into the pew. “Let her be,” directed Pastor Turner. “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me.’ He wants them to feel comfortable in his house and to know that he is approachable.”
From that time, I attempted to sit near the front of the church with my children so their curiosity about what was happening in the sanctuary could be satisfied without leaving the pew or standing on it. One of the countless things I like about the Catholic Church is that children are welcome at Mass. Yes, some churches have cry rooms for those whose vocal announcements could be distracting for everyone. But windows in cry rooms open to the sanctuary, and the children have not been ‘sent away.’
When I look at this passage from the Gospel of Mark, first I notice that the kingdom of God is given. We are called to receive what is offered. Do we want the gift? Of course we do! Jesus wants that for us, as well, which is why he told us how.
Observe carefully the little children around you – at home or church or in parks. When they interact with others, do they only seek people to serve them? Or, do they find joy in making others happy? Is their general outlook on life negative or positive? Do they hold grudges? Or are they quickly forgiving? Do they need grandiose amusements or do simple pleasures please them? Are they pressed under the burden of fear or worry? Or do they contentedly live in the moment?
I think Jesus meant for us to learn lessons from little children when he said, ‘for to such as these belong the kingdom of God. Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’
To Jesus, through Mary-Cheryl Ann Wills