A couple of weeks back I attended an early morning Mass away from home. We were all packed into this small chapel off to the side of the main church to celebrate daily Mass. The place was cozy and the community sweetly diverse with foreigners, kiwi’s, office class, labor class, mothers, children, elderly, and me, a seminarian on holiday. I was soaking in the atmosphere as I snuck in the back of the chapel. As a seminarian, I often find myself wondering what serving in different communities and environments would be like, pondering the potential challenges or the things that attract me. In warm and welcoming communities, one thing is for certain — there are always mothers and children.
I remember being uplifted by the readings of the day and feeling joyful for one of the concelebrating priests who was celebrating his golden jubilee that day (almost always gets me little teary!). Yet one thing which struck me throughout the Mass was a young child behind me, reciting perfectly and innocently each of the responses to the Mass parts. The tone of voice was off from the rest of the community as it simply ran over the top of our unified mumble of praise. And it made me ponder the question of Jesus to the Disciples, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Jesus answered this by calling forth a little child setting it in front of them saying, “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” It’s such a weird and strange answer when we think about it. Try to look at it with a fresh perspective. Why does he say this? A little child! I wonder how old the child was? At a guess, I would say under two as it says he “set the child in front of them”. I can imagine Christ crouching down, holding the child by the shoulders, looking so chuffed as he spoke to his disciples, “unless you become like this little one, you cannot enter my kingdom. Simple as that.”
Let us look at the child and ask what is it that is so ‘great’ an example. I mean, they don’t have extensive ‘knowledge’, loads of ‘friends’, hold ‘great responsibility’, have great ‘wealth’, and by no means are ‘independent’. Nope, none of the above, just a mere toddler! Let us take this example and transform our outlook, for everything is beautiful to the child! Everything is a new experience, everything is something to ponder, and since the little one probably didn’t talk much, let us learn to just take in what is before us. Ponder it, knowing that everything flows from Our Father in Heaven, through Our Blessed Mother to us!
You know what’s amazing, too? No one is more caught up in awe, captured by, or loves to watch, listen and admire than the presence of a little child! If you want a massive Facebook ‘like,’ chuck up a cute photo of a little chump! Not to mention the many memes! They just capture our attention so well and their innocent beauty melts our hearts!
So what is it? Why does Christ want us to be like little children? Well, he simply wants us to trust him, to follow him, rely on him, to look to him, to run to him, to laugh with him, cry in his arms. I promise you this, if you truly embrace Our Motherm she will pass you to the Father and he will hold us just like he held our brother, even on the cross! Mere faith is all it takes.
Do you know our youngest Doctor in the Faith? St. Therese of the Child Jesus. If you don’t, I implore you to find out more about her and seek her intercession. You won’t look back. We all simply want to be loved and to love – she’s an exemplar of this par excellence. She found her identity in the Father, just as a little child does in their Father and Mother. St. Therese said to Mother Mary, “You know, dear Mother, that I am happier than you? I have you for Mother, whereas you do not have the Blessed Virgin to love.” Oh, how blessed we are.
So, I challenge you, next time you see a toddler, just watch how the little one interacts with their parent.
So what did I remember from that Friday morning Mass… The innocent voice of a little child praising the Father, oh how I wish to follow! Because so often I ask myself – and maybe you do too… How do I pray? How do I witness? How do I evangelize? How do I love? Just keep it simple, become like a little child.