Saturday, 19th Week in Ordinary Time
In the time of Jesus children are of little significance. Their sudden intrusion in today’s gospel scene may be construed as a distraction. That is why the disciples rebuke them. But Jesus, somehow rebuking the disciples, says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Let me emphasize this: Children, in Jesus’ time, do not have rights and status, and they must cling resolutely to others. Only those who cling in this way to Jesus are worthy of the Kingdom. What stands out here is Jesus’ attitude toward children: that is, regarding them as models worthy of imitation, especially in their reception of the Kingdom of heaven.
Good people are willing to help the poor and the needy, willing to serve the sick, the weak and the afflicted, willing to be charitable to the downtrodden and the oppressed. Jesus’ statement, however, is much more radical. The little children, the abandoned youngsters, the forgotten elderly, the abused migrant workers, and the other voiceless and powerless people – these are the ones to whom the Kingdom of heaven belongs. The have nothing except the care of a merciful God.
The Lord challenges us to adopt the attitude of trust and confidence that people without rights and status must have. To that extent, we are bidden to be children. In a world with so much emphasis on individualism and self-esteem, personal development and success, on power and domination, the words of Jesus are indeed refreshing: “The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The condition for our entry into the Kingdom is a recognition of our real standing before God. To enter God’s kingdom requires that we realize our total dependence on God. It is the unconditional trust, dependence, and humility of a child that Jesus calls everyone to possess. What it means is that we must realize that it is only by his grace that we are able to do all that we do. Indeed, it is in our childlike weakness and helplessness that God becomes our strength and our help. It is in our childlike powerlessness and vulnerability that God’s power works in us and through us.