By Fr. Roy Cimagala
IT’S intriguing to note that while Christ wants us to be as mature and tough as we can be, he also wants us to be like a child. I suppose this is again one of the paradoxes he is fond to telling us.
Given the condition of our life here on earth, we actually cannot avoid having to assume apparently contrasting qualities, as long as we do not go to extremes such that we end up either like brutes or a marshmallow. We have to learn how to stay somewhere in the middle, just as one proverb puts it: “In medio stat virtus,” in the middle there is virtue.
That he wants us to be child-like is highlighted when at a certain moment with his disciples who were arguing as to who among them was the greatest, he took a child and told them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” (Lk 9,48)
Christ is quite clear about this point. “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” he said, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Mt 11,25)
Christ reiterated this necessity of being childlike a number of times during his preaching. “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18,3) “Let the children come to me. Do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10,15) St. James, in his letter, made the same affirmation. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (4,6)
We can ask what it is in children that Christ would want us to be like them? I suppose what can come to mind are the qualities of simplicity, transparency, complete trust to elders, etc.
It’s quite clear that we all need to be childlike even as we grow in age and stature, and even as we accumulate already quite a significant amount of knowledge with our exposure to the world and the life in general.
Yes, children and heaven are almost synonymous to each other. No wonder we feel like we are in heaven every time we see children around. Every time a baby is born, we are very happy because we somehow know that he just did not come out of his mother’s womb, but rather from the very hands of God who created him before the parents procreated him.
In spite of the many limitations of children, what makes them always desirable is their pure, innocent heart, incapable of malice, ambition, pride and haughtiness. They are a source of many other good things.
Their heart is always trusting in the Lord, just like a little kid is always confident with his father. Faith and hope easily grow and acquire strength when nurtured in a child’s heart. It’s this attitude that leads them to go on and move on no matter what, for life to them could only be an adventure of discoveries.
We just have to make sure that to be childlike does not become to be childish. A passage from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians can serve as a very relevant reminder to all of us: “Do not become children in sense. But in malice be children, and in sense be perfect.” (14,20)