Matthew 18:1-5, 10
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven'.
Small children know that they are utterly dependent on the kindness of others to nurture and sustain them. In telling us to become like little children, Jesus calls us to open and trusting dependence on God, secure in the knowledge that God will meet our needs – sometimes needs that we do not even know that we have.
The British novelist George MacDonald loved writing stories about princes and princesses. At one point in his life, someone asked him why he focused so much of his writing on them.His answer was profound: “Because every girl is a princess.”When the person asking the question was confused, MacDonald asked what the definition of a princess is.”
“The daughter of a king,” the man answered.
“Very well, then every little girl is a princess.”
Jesus sets the bar for entrance into the kingdom quite high: we must change and become like little children. Where do I need to change most? Ours is a world of narcissists, where so many are engrossed by themselves and their importance, so that being like a child is really counter-cultural. I ask for light and wisdom to see where and how I can become like a little child.
Jesus warns us to respect children. I let myself feel sorrow at the scandal of child abuse, within and without the Church. I pray for the victims and the abusers, and for our leaders, humbly and compassionately. I consider how I look at the children present in my life.
Lord, you saw something in this child that you want to see in me: the capacity to wonder at the world, its smells and taste and sounds and sights; and a readiness to depend on others rather than be full of myself; and above all, a trust in you as my Father, for whom my destiny is all-important. Give me that childlike confidence in your love. Amen