He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
There is a great deal going on in the Gospel. The Disciples are trying to understand their role in Jesus’ mission. After all, they are with Jesus doesn’t that make them among the greatest?
No. Jesus makes it very clear that the dispossessed are the greatest in the Kingdom.
Jesus uses a child to illustrate his point. In Jesus’ time children had no rights. They were the property of their parents. Life was hard in Jesus’ time. Three of very ten children didn’t outlive childhood. That isn’t to say that parents didn’t love their children. Of course, they did! Parents often sought Jesus out to bless their children.
The importance of children to Jesus is great. It is through children that we can see faith in action.
From birth to three years a child’s greatest need is for security. God calls us to protect, love and nurture our children. It is through our acts as Priest – Nurturer, Prophet – First Teacher, and Queen – Protector/Guide that our children learn of God and the constancy of God’s love.
From three to seven they are experiencing faith as they have been shown and as they perceive it. They see God as a constant. Parents model a belief in God and show how faith is lived. God is the Great Man Who Lives In The Clouds and has a white beard.
Now from seven to 12 years faith becomes more relational. This stage of spiritual development corresponds with children’s emotional growth. The peers become important. The children still look to the parents, but now they may be seeing the cracks of human imperfection in their parents. This crisis may have the children questioning what they have experienced. They may leave the Church for a while, but as Jesus shows, patience with his beloved always pays off.
Think back on your experiences as a child. Do you remember what God was like when you were a small school aged child? How did God change as you became a teen? In college did you drift away for a while? What brought you back?
Reviewing our reactions can help us understand our children’s feelings and give us some insight into how to handle what they are feeling at any stage.