Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After he placed his hands on them, he went away.
To see Christ welcoming children doesn't really surprise us anymore. It just feels right that He should have a heart for them. Not liking children seems to be a rather questionable feature in a person, after all. Unthinkable for Christ. Unthinkable for us, isn't it?
But childhood doesn't only englobe the cute, the innocent, the trusting features. The disciples’ rebuke could be an indication that these children weren't necessarily sweet, well-behaved, little darlings. Perhaps they were dirty urchins, coursing bullies, mean little pickpockets. If that was the case, today's Gospel is championing for mercy as much as it is for love for children.
Even then would we probably stand the ground with Christ easily and welcome these little troublemakers with Him; they are only children, after all, poor victims of their unfortunate upbringing. But, if we look closer, could we also go further? Christ speaks of “such as these,” meaning that these particular children stand for something more general. It could stand for the simpleton, the immature, the annoying… How welcoming are we with them?
A child is, by definition, unaccomplished: weak, insecure, prone to mistake. And, in that sense, we all are childish in one way or another. While a sweet look of an infant triggers immediate understanding, unaccomplished features will quickly cost an older person all our sympathy. For some reason, this unforgiving tendency leads frequently to the temptation among pious people to frown, or even rebuke, “such as these;” to rebuke them when they approach the holy things with their unaccomplished manners. Isn't that what happened to the disciples?
We guard ourselves well from phariseeism when dealing with the category of “sinners.” For, like the disciples, this is one if the first things we learn when being with Jesus: let _sinners_ come to me, he taught us. Today Jesus teaches us to allow the same with children and “such as these.”
Jesus, I am a child myself: weak, short-sighted, unaccomplished. Thank you for allowing me to come close to you nevertheless. Forgive me for maybe giving in to the temptation of distancing people from my life because of their limitations. Above all, help me to never withhold from anyone the treasures you have entrusted to me. Assist me with your nudging graces to live your mercy: To feed the hungry. To give water to the thirsty. To clothe the naked. To shelter the homeless. To visit the sick. To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive. To bury the dead.