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Welcoming the Child as Jesus Does
Gospel Reflection Mk 9:30-37; February 21, 2023
"What were you arguing about on the way?"
“Jane, you would not believe how deep the faith is of these little children!” My fellow student exclaimed to me. She had just come back from a conference in Toronto; while there she had the chance to visit a parish that ran an evangelical and catechetical program called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In my last year of undergrad theological studies, I was condescendingly amused at the idea of little children having comprehension of such things we were learning in our classes.
“It wasn’t like that,” she shared, “they knew Jesus. They wanted to be with him, to praise him, to connect their love for Jesus to their actions. Honestly, they seemed to better understand theology than most of us do!”
Her enthusiasm for these children’s deep relationship with Jesus remained with me for years after that conversation. Seven years ago, I underwent training to be a catechist in this program, and I can’t help but now be amused at my own self-superiority. I understand a little more fully the implications of Jesus’ words to his disciples: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Children, especially young children before the age of reason, have a gift that is much harder to access once our ability to apply reason and logic appears (about the age of seven). This gift is the ability to fully accept what God gives us with wonder, awe, curiosity, and joy.
How can we receive a child in Jesus’ name? Through entering into that experience of life with a child. To be like a child we need to learn from the child: here, us adults are not the experts. It is not something knowledge teaches, but the experience of the child’s faith that teaches.
And it is here we experience again one of the lessons Jesus keeps coming back to: "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Lent starts tomorrow; I wonder if we might remember that we cannot ourselves be perfect as the Father is perfect unless Jesus dwells in us, giving us his perfection. It is not about learning how to be perfect so that he can dwell in us, but how much we allow ourselves to be humble and filled with joy within humility, being like a child who makes room for Jesus simply because she loves him and wants him near.
May God’s Spirit inspire us to be filled with joy no matter where we are in our faith life, not ashamed to invite Jesus into everything so that he might dwell within us. And may we receive the precious faith of children as our example of how we can joyfully live our humility.