Homily for May 21st, 2016: Mark 10:13-16.
The world in which Jesus lived was certainly not child centered. Children were supposed to keep out of the way: to be seen, perhaps, but not heard. That is why Jesus’ disciples thought they were doing him a favor by shooing children away from him.
Jesus surprises his disciples (he’s still surprising people) by saying: “Let the children come to me.” Then he adds something which he repeats, in one form or another, throughout the gospels: “It I to just such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” – in other words, to children. Elsewhere Jesus tells us that, to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must “become like little children” (cf. Mt. 18:2ff, Mk 9:36, Lk 9:47).
What is it about childhood that Jesus recommends? First, an aspect of childhood which he certainly does not recommend: two little ones in the playpen fighting over a toy that interested neither until the other one picked it up. Even young children can be selfish. As we grow older we learn ways of hiding our selfishness. Little children haven’t learned yet how to do that.
One thing about children that Jesus does recommend is their natural sense of dependence. It never occurs to little ones that they can make it on their own. Few things are more devastating for a young child than to be separated from Mummy or Daddy.
Another feature of childhood recommended by Jesus is the ability to wonder. Everyday things which we adults take for granted amaze little children: birds in the sky, flowers, balloons. Sadly, TV has robbed children of this ability. By age 3 at the latest, they have seen it all on the Boob Tube. Artists retain this capacity for wonder – and saints. A painter sees a piece of driftwood on the beach and gives it a place of honor in his studio at home. Bl. Teresa of
face was wreathed in smiles whenever she picked up a small child. Calcutta
We pray, then, in this Mass: “Lord, give me always a sense of my dependence
on you. And help me to gasp with wonder at the beauty of your creation!”