Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child over and said, “Unless you change and become like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18: 1-5) What does Jesus mean when he tells us to be like children, to be child-like? He surely doesn’t mean for us to be child-ish.
To be child-like is to be totally immersed in the present. A child does not have a past to feel guilty about. And they know nothing about the future. They live in the present, in the real world, in the only reality. That is why they can learn and assimilate so quickly. By living in the present they make a beautiful dream of the past and a wonderful hope for the future. Adults waste a lot of time and energy on the past and the future which does not even exist.
To be child-like is to have a sense of wonder. Nothing is dull or commonplace to them, everything is new. They live in a magic kingdom where there are tongues in trees, books in running brooks and good in everything. They find themselves as the center of a wonderful world. They want to know about everything. There constant question is why?
Adults have lost their sense of wonder. They live in a dull, monotonous world of the same old same old. They have been there, done that.
To be child-like is to experience security not based on their possessions or achievements but on the unconditional love of their parents. This enables the child to accept himself as loveable and valuable in himself. From this conviction he can go on to accept and love others and in so doing become an emotionally mature adult. Adults base their security on their achievements and possessions, on wealth, insurance, weapons, stocks and ,bonds tea leaves and crystal balls. So they never experience real security.
So you say, how then can I be child-like? I am an adult. I have a past for which I feel guilty and a future about which I worry. I have been there and done that and I do not feel loveable.
Our faith makes it possible. I can live in the present because I have the mercy of God for the past and the providence of God for the future. I can have a sense of wonder because faith ushers us into a wonderful world beyond the senses, a world that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” I can have a sense of security not based on my possessions or achievements because I have the unconditional love of God who loves me not for my possessions or achievements but for myself; not for myself as a should be or possible could be but as I really am with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities. God loves me not for what I am but for Who He is.
Such is the kingdom
of God: to live in the present, to have a sense
of awe and wonder and to have our security
rooted firmly in the fidelity of the love of God. St.
Theresa, the Little Flower, gives us a concrete
example. She wrote in her autobiography, “My
little way is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and complete
surrender of our selves into to arms of God, our Father.”
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