Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs (Matthew 19:14).” What is it about children that make them model disciples of our Lord? Maybe it is because children see things differently from grown-ups because they are:
C – curious: parents often get exasperated by the endless string of whys, whens, wheres, whos and whats, are-we-there-yets thrown at them by their offspring, but children are only seeking understanding and knowledge of the world around them, and will not stop until they are satisfied – or silenced. Are we curious about Christ? Do we persist in seeking understanding and knowledge of our faith?
H – happy, joyful, uninhibited, carefree: children don’t care what people think of them, and are unafraid of exploring new places and taking risks. They simply follow their hearts – their spontaneity is infectious. At a General Audience in November 2018, a 6 year old hearing-impaired boy playfully ran up on the stage where Pope Francis was giving his catechesis and Holy Father exclaimed: “He has something that made me think: He’s free! Undisciplined-ly free, but he’s free! It made me think, ‘Am I so free before God?'”
I – imaginative and imitative: children love fairy-tales, rhymes and stories, and dare to dream and create their own make-believe worlds. They role-play their favourite characters, be they prince and princess, or Mummy and Daddy, or priest and parishioner. Are we just as enthralled by the parables of Jesus? Do we imitate Christ and his apostles’ way of life? (1 Corinthians 1:11)
L – loving and loveable: it is easy to love young children because they love so unconditionally. Their trust and dependence on us is total, and they crave and compete for our attention, time and touch. They continue seeking and loving us even when we discipline them, or reject or neglect them. A 4-year old girl was asked about the meaning of love. She answered: “Love is when your puppy jumps on you and licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”Our Father in heaven loves us unconditionally too – do we return his love with the same joy and purity that children do their earthly parents? God (like our parents) gave us the gift of life – do we give God (and our parents) the gift of our time, or do we leave Him alone all day?
D – discipline-able, teachable: little children are usually obliging and obedient, and accept discipline without bearing grudges. God our Father also disciplines us: “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts. Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? He disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness (Hebrews 12:5-8,10).” Do we throw spiritual tantrums when trials come our way? Are we resentful when we are corrected for our own good?
R – receptive: Child psychologist, Haim Ginotti shared that, “Children are like wet cement – whatever falls on them makes an impression.”They are smart and fast learners. Robert Fulghumonce said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you!”Similarly, faith too is caught first, and only taught later. If Veronica wiped our face, would we leave an impression of the image of Christ on her handkerchief? Are we true fishers of men, catching others for the Kingdom by our witnessing?
E – easily enchanted and eager to please: children find fun and endless fascination with just about anything. In the same way, St John Paul II said: “We must open our eyes to admire God who hides and at the same time reveals himself in things and introduces us into the realms of mystery… We must be pure and simple like children, capable of admiring, being astonished, of marvelling, and being enchanted by the divine gestures of love and closeness we witness.”Can we see God in everything? Do we still have the capacity to be captivated by creation?
N – natural: children are most conformed the image and likeness of God. They dance and laugh and sing with abandon. They state facts simply, without innuendo and with complete innocence and truth: Jesus gives us the example of “children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry(Luke 7:32).” Do we still speak Truth, or do we propagate fake news? Are we still conformed to Christ or won over by the world?
No wonder when Jesus was asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”he called a child into his presence and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).”
In his 1994 Letter to Children, St John Paul II exclaimed:“How important children are in the eyes of Jesus! We could even say that the Gospel is full of the truth about children. The whole of the Gospel could actually be read as the ‘Gospel of Children’!”
Let us learn from the little ones of the earth, in order to be truly wise in the eyes of God.