Whenever a bride and groom exchange marriage vows, I am astonished at what these two fragile human beings are committing themselves to do and be for each other: to be faithful friends, for better or for worse, for the remainder of their lives. How can this be possible for mere humans as ourselves? The same question arises whenever parents present their new baby for Baptism, solemnly committing themselves to the immense task of being faith-filled models and guides for decades to come. How can this be possible for mere human beings as ourselves?
Sometimes these commitments seem to be little more than wishful thinking. For many of us, unfortunately, that's how things actually turn out to be: wishful thinking. But in today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that's not the way things have to turn out, even with our human flaws and limitations. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us the impossible is possible. We can be part of his reign on earth as the spouses, parents and friends we long to be, but so often have not been.
How can this happen? Jesus says all we have to do is become like little children! What is it that makes little children so different from us grown-ups? First of all, they know they're little, and they know they need help from people who love them. They have no false pride! It doesn't even occur to little ones to pretend they're invincible. (That's reserved for teenagers!) Little ones trust openly, don't label people based on superficial things like skin color or the slant of their eyes or the kinky-ness of their hair – unless they're taught to by the grown-ups in their lives.
Little children think all things are possible and worth trying. You don't hear a little one say “That wont work!” You do hear them say “Let's try!” Little ones are compassionate and caring to those who are even smaller and more helpless than they are. Legions of stray cats, malnourished dogs and birds with broken wings testify to that!
Of course small children don't have adults' attention span, physical skills and strength. But they do have what really matters: an openness to people, to life, to God! Imagine what wonderful spouses, parents and friends we would be if we adopted a child's way and opened our minds and hearts to people, to life, to God! No one, no joy, no love would ever be locked out. That is Jesus' advice to you and me: become like little children!
I think the reason why Jesus scolds his disciples for shooing the children away was that he actually delights in children. He is among his very own! Children are more like Jesus than we are! May we too delight in children just as Jesus does. But much more importantly, may we become the very children in mind and heart that Jesus invites us to become! AMEN!