Spiritually Grow Up By Becoming Like A Child!
While teaching my then three-year-old daughter, Sarah, the “Our Father”, I began by saying, “Repeat after me: ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’” I figured one phrase at a time would be a good way to go with a three-year-old. She glanced back at me with a knowing smile, and responded, “Our Daddy who art in heaven.” I smiled back, but pressed on with the lesson. “Repeat after me,” I reiterated. “Our Father who art in heaven.” She smiled wide, like I was missing something and she knew more about the prayer than I did. She loudly shot back, “Our Daddy who art in heaven.” Cute, I thought, but that’s not how the prayer goes! I imagined her loudly and proudly piping out her unique version of the prayer during Sunday Mass and me, her inept father, being the brunt of disapproving glances from surrounding parishioners. So, I pressed on with a more stern countenance . “Sarah, it goes like this, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’” Her smile evaporated. She matched my stoic disposition, and with a steadfast expression and an insistent tone, she echoed, “Our Daddy who art in heaven.”
It was then I realized who was really teaching whom. My three-year-old daughter illustrated one of the important truths of today’s gospel—“whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Although today’s readings primarily focus on adult commitments regarding marriage, the Gospel concludes with the call to be like a child. The truth is that children have much to teach us about the kingdom of God. It seems like all of life is a continual progression of growing up and out of acting like a child. Yet, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Accepting the kingdom like a child is not one of the many roads into the kingdom—it’s the only road. Without it there’s no entry.
In the Gospel reading, the adult religious leaders stood at a spiritual distance, testing Jesus and scrutinizing for moral loopholes, while the children were swarming Him with love, affection, and trust. Their innocence and purity allowed them to see God in Jesus (see Matthew 5:8). Jesus was probably giving the kids the ancient Hebrew equivalent of the high five or knuckle . Nevertheless, what is Jesus trying to teach us when He says we must accept the kingdom of God like a child? The same thing that my three-year-old daughter Sarah was trying to teach me— that we come to God as a beloved child. Her substitution of “daddy” was indicative of her simple dependence and trust in an intimate, personal, and loving God. The way of the kingdom is full of surprises. It’s in being little that our life looms large. It’s only through surrender that we truly win. It’s by being simple that our life becomes profound. It’s in being powerless that we exercise the greatest of power. It’s in being like a child that we become spiritually mature. So, as you begin this new week, in what ways do you need to approach God as a child? In what areas of your life do you need to trust God? In what ways do you need to surrender, depend, and rely on the power of God? Grow up by becoming like a child!