To Be Like Children

Matthew 18: 1-5,10,12-14
Deut 31:1-8 / Deut 32

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 18:3)

With Christ our guide in words and deed,
With foes we will be reconciled;
From prejudice and pride be freed,
That we may come to be God’s child.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom He put among them, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me . . . See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. . . What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14)

Reflection

It may seem paradoxical that children, who are weak, vulnerable, and insignificant in the power scale should be regarded by Jesus as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. However, upon reflection we realize that it is their innocence, their purity from biases and prejudices, and their eagerness for learning that endear them to God, and make them great. And it is precisely because of their weakness and total dependence on God that they share in His power and providence. As St. Paul said, “I have the strength for everything through Him Who empowers me” (Phil.4:13).

Observe the little children when they are at play. How easily they quarrel over their toys, and yet how easily they make up and are friends again. Jesus explicitly says, unless we turn and be like children, we cannot enter His kingdom. Unless we can forgive and forget (where we buried the hatchet); unless we can love our enemies; unless we can turn the other cheek; unless we can imitate Him as our guide and perfect example, until then we cannot qualify to be God’s children.

Humility is the key. Our pride and prejudices are what block the process of being reconciled to those who have set themselves apart from us. To be humble and take the initiative (even if we are not at fault) in order to bring a brother or sister back to the fold is not a sign of weakness. It is in fact a strength of character to set aside our hurts and/or sense of fairness, and seek out the offended party for reconciliation. It takes boldness of spirit to face one’s adversary and apologize to him for hurting his feelings, especially when you feel that he is the one at fault. In our first reading, the Book of Deuteronomy says, “Be brave and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the Lord, your God, Who marches with you; He will never fail you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). Take it up, as our Lord took up His cross. Be counted as one of His beloved flock, for in this way you are indeed a child of God.

Lord Jesus, You are the Lamb of God, gentle and meek in all your ways, forgiving of all offenses, even unto death on the cross. As fallen creatures, we find it hard to be humble, for it is in our nature to strive for greatness and recognition. It is so difficult to forgive, especially those with ill feelings towards us. Help us, Lord to be like you, so that in following Your example we may be counted as God’s children. Amen.

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