As I was lying in bed last night, not sleeping (if anyone cares to say a prayer for me regarding this vicious worsening of my chronic insomnia troubles, I would be greatly appreciative) I was thinking about children.
Last Sunday's Gospel, Mark 9:30-37 was about people receiving a child in Jesus' name, also receiving Jesus.
Father delivered a delightful homily which was a bit of a variation on what is often presented as the message of this Gospel passage.
One often hears that this reading is talking about being open and welcoming as a child is in order to receive Jesus. Father's perspective was that it might also mean having a good sense of humility. After all, welcoming a child is not always convenient...his illustration of this was humourous and, to me, familiar. Parents go into the room of a child who was sleeping only to discover that the child has been quietly creating a disaster which can sometimes be unsanitary. Think: paint by numbers, where the only number is "2". Having to deal with child disasters can happen when one is all set to go out for an evening. I envision an old "Family Circus" cartoon which shows the mum, dressed up in a long elegant evening gown, plunging out a plugged toilet and opining "For this, I went to college?". Parents must be willing to change plans at a moment's notice.
I suppose that welcoming a child could also go back to the child's very birth...or conception.
I had another thought about children and faith. We who have been involved in religious education have often heard, or said ourselves, the importance of "understanding" in preparation for sacraments. This is particularly said for First Communion. The implication is that a child shouldn't be too young.
I would first ask if any of us really understand what it is that happens during the confection of the Eucharist (Communion). By some God-powered miracle, Jesus becomes the bread which we later consume.
But, to a young child, everything is a miracle and most things are hard to explain. How does a car work? Why does rain fall from the sky... sometimes even when the sun is shining?
Might it not be that a child is actually more likely to "understand" what is happening when Jesus gives His body to us in the Eucharist? After all, a youngster's mind may not yet be bound by the rules life imposes...laws of nature and all that.
As I think a little more, I realize that my thoughts also focus on humility. We grown-ups often do not like be taught. We think we know it all already. It can be hard for us to accept miracles; things we cannot explain or understand. Children are accustomed to not understanding things, so they accept what they are told by people they trust. It is sad if we grow and become jaded to truth. The Gospel of Luke 18:16 comes to mind.
We should become like children, to accept and be accepted by Jesus. For such as these is the Kingdom of Heaven!