Jesus so loves children that he gives them to us as an example of how we are to be his disciples. It is easy to picture Jesus welcoming a child into the midst of a conversation with his disciples and then while holding that child before them tells them these astounding words for his time and for our time in history : “Amen, I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child welcomes me! Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. So it is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” Jesus himself would search out each child with loving care and protection.
To be like a child means to be humble, open, and joyful. The idea of power and control are remote in the mind of a child, therefore, the disciples must take note of these qualities. Yes, the teaching about guardian angels has a foundation here in Scripture which attests to them so simply without going into medieval philosophical syllogisms or abstraction. We are to learn from the angels how to protect them by having the same disposition as God and Jesus have in their regard.
Many of us who read this passage are in the helping professions, namely, teachers, counselors, mentors, guardians, and nurses. This passage can help us to be focused on how precious and important children are. We need to take our role seriously and be wholesome persons if we want to help parents and families protect and love their children. We should work for better schooling, better nutrition, and for tender watchfulness over each child whom we meet or have some responsibility for. We need to pray for them.
Jesus, the supreme teacher, has shown us the way. He is our model and mentor as a teacher who shows loving-kindness to children. Is there anyone else in the Bible who has centered upon their precious presence in this world than Jesus? No wonder he has a child as a model for our own discipleship.
We can see other passages that help us to be like Jesus in our relationship with children (Matthew 9:33ff., Luke 9:46 ff. and Ephesians 6:1-3). St. Paul recommends obedience and honor to children. Jesus insists that his followers must become likened to children to enter the kingdom. And how about this citation about John the Baptist :”Truly I tell you, among those born to women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). Indeed, how great then is our responsibility for children. Amen.
Father Bertrand Buby, S.M. obtained his licentiate in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute and his doctorate in Marian Theology from the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton and is professor emeritus for the Religious Studies Department of the University of Dayton. He has taught Scripture and Marian theology and presently teaches Scripture at the Inernational Marian Institute (I.M.R.I). He is the author of the trilogy MARY OF GALILEE, and also of Mary Faithful Disciple, With a Listening Heart (Pslam commentary), a commentary on the Book of Revelation. Fr. Buby was past president of the Mariological Society of America and has written articles for the marian journal called Marian Studies. He is a member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy (P.A.M.I.) and lives with ten other Marianists near the University of Dayton. Vist marypage.org. for more information.