“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14).
Again we see the disciples refusing access to Jesus. The scriptures are not clear why they consistently act this way. We see them doing so with the blind man Bartimaeus, the tax collector Zacchaeus, and the Canaanite woman. In today’s reading, they are refusing access to children. The characteristic of each of those being refused is that they are considered to be on the periphery of Jewish society.
Children, paidia in Greek, especially so. Paidia could represent a child from infancy to twelve years of age. In ancient Palestine, children were particularly vulnerable, had no status and were completely dependent on their families for survival. Luke goes even further than Mark and Matthew by using, brephē, meaning infant, to describe the children. It is to these children and infants that Jesus states the Kingdom of heaven belongs.
Just as consistent as the disciples are in turning away those in need, Jesus is just as consistent in his ministry of paying particular interest to the individual person in their particular need. He welcomes the children and blesses each one of them. Jesus continually acknowledges and affirms the dignity of each person he meets, especially those neglected and ignored. Those who have been on the other side of the glass looking in, Jesus gives admittance to. Jesus bridges the divide of separation through his presence and healing touch.
To enter the Kingdom of heaven, we must be willing to trust and place, as children, even more so, as infants, our total dependence on God alone, instead of relying on our own initiative or effort. There is nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven. The entrance into the Kingdom of heaven is a free gift of God’s grace. This gift is not about our worthiness, for all of us fall short. It is about our willingness to acknowledge our utter dependence on our loving God and Father and accept the invitation he offers all of us to be in relationship with him. As we do so, we are to resist the temptation to prevent others from having access to this wonderful gift, but instead we are to share the same invitation we have received with others.
Photo: A stained glass image of Jesus with children at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA.