Gospel: Mt 19:13-15
Then little children were brought to Jesus, that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Don’t hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.” Jesus laid his hands on them and went away.
There is something unusual here in Jesus’ teaching and action. He invites to himself the little children who were of least consequence and with no powerful standing in society, proposes them as models for human behavior especially in receiving the Kingdom of God. We are aware that in the Jewish culture during the time of Jesus, children were not taken seriously. They were not given the respect and esteem that they deserved. By presenting them as exemplars for how to receive the kingdom, Jesus was in effect recognizing the positive qualities or virtues exhibited by young children such as humility, docility, transparency/honesty and obedience – among others.
Jesus’ teaching and action favoring innocent children serves as an encouragement for most of us. Even though we might feel inferior to everyone else, Jesus tells us we are worth a billion in God’s sight. That should give enough self-esteem and self-confidence. We are loved and “small people” like us have a place in the kingdom of heaven. At the same time, the respect for children and their ability to symbolize the proper approach to the kingdom of God seems particularly important in view of recent revelations about child abuse. Abuse of children is rooted in a lack of respect and appreciation of their worth. It might help to keep in mind always that there is so much that innocent little children can teach us.