In this gospel passage, Mark is trying to make a point by connecting Jesus’ teaching about divorce to his blessing of little children.
It begins with some Pharisees trying to trap Jesus by asking about His position on divorce. Jesus replies that Moses permitted a certificate of divorce only because man’s hearts were hard. The truth is that in marriage, “the two will become one flesh,” so what “God has joined together, let no one separate.” For thousands of years before and after Jesus, marriage has been an economically advantageous arrangement made between a young woman’s father and the groom-to-be with little thought to spiritual reality.
In the first century, the poor were often orphans and women without husbands, so Jesus’ prohibition against divorce could be seen as a strong stand for justice for the vulnerable ones in society. Jesus is taking a stand for wives and children, and is trying to protect them with a strong prohibition against divorce.
With similar compassion, Jesus rebukes the disciples who try to block the little children who are being brought for a blessing. “Let the little children come to me,” says Jesus; “do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” While the disciples see the little children as not as important as adults, Jesus considers them to be precious and worthy of his blessing. To emphasize children’s value, He makes a startling claim, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
In a society which gave all the power to adult men, Jesus teaches a radical new way of living in humility and love.
Do we really understand what it means to receive the kingdom of God as a little child?
Lord, have mercy on my arrogance and self-sufficiency, and grant me the heart of a child who receives you in humility with complete trust and abandonment.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Melanie Jean Juneau