It’s fair to say that parents want the very best for their children. So it seems only natural that, knowing Jesus was near, parents would want their littlies to experience a moment of closeness with Him. Child mortality rates were very high in the time of Jesus, so one might imagine the parents would want their children to be close to, and be blessed by the One who was close to Giver of Life.
But the disciples were busying themselves for their presumed roles in the forthcoming kingdom; too busy to be bothered by pushy parents or little brats. After all, children should be seen and not heard. Many present-day disciples of Jesus fit that mould, caught up in busy lives and leaving their children to their own devices, literally, figuratively and electronic. For many parents, the pressures of life make it hard to meet the emotional needs of their young. Sadly, emotional neglect is often the result.
Neglect is widely documented as causing deleterious consequences upon the psychological, intellectual and academic functioning of children, who also may exhibit a variety of disorders, such as depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, aggression and conduct problems. Children in these states can become vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Jesus’ answer is simple, if challenging; Children are precious in God’s eyes. They are deserving of time, attention and love. They are loved by God. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Like the disciples, we need to take a reality check about the things that are important and realise how much children need the love and care of adults.
“Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.” — Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and social activist.
PS: When I first sent this article to Fr Giltus, I shared a story with him, which he thought worthy of printing. One of my daughters, whose birthday it is to-day, when she was two years old, would bellow, in all seriousness, the responses to the Kyrie, with Lord Harris Murphy, Christ Harris Murphy. It still makes me smile many years later and reminds me of the precious, disarming gifts that children bring us. I’m sure that, at His meeting with the children, which Matthew describes for us today, Jesus would have shared some priceless moments too.
Brian has been married to Kathleen for 48 years and they have 4 children and 7 grandchildren. For many years he worked with offenders and later with victims of crime. Earlier, he was a registered nurse and, in his salad days, he was a Passionist student. He is involved in the Terrey Hills community, where he is a Passionist Companion.