A Reflection for Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:14)
I don’t know anyone who loves children more than my grandmother does.
This includes, of course, her ten grandchildren, but maybe just as notably in my mind it includes the hundreds of students she got to know as a Catholic elementary school teacher and eventual principal. She has always had a way of loving the hallmark qualities of childhood—openness, trust, a lack of self-consciousness—while also appreciating the things that make each child unique. I have observed the way she works with young people in so many places: in the classroom teaching a math lesson, on the playground at recess, on a long car ride keeping up conversation.
When we show children the delight that exists for them, we inch history closer to the kingdom of heaven—the one that Jesus said belongs to the littlest among us.
Her gift with children is in the delicate balance of how she interacts with them. Everything they say and do is treated like the most important thing in the world, and it’s taken completely seriously. And at the same time, she does not treat them in the same way she treats adults. They are not expected to be anything they aren’t yet, because in her eyes, being a child is a beautiful thing, perfect as it is, not something to be rushed or wished away. Thanks to this delicate balance, I have been to elementary school plays that were received like Broadway opening nights. I have enjoyed Christmas mornings that were planned as meticulously as any red carpet event. And I have heard, again and again, her memories of spending time with me when I was a little girl, told as if they were highlights from great literature.
In short, she delights in children. She celebrates them. In spending time with them, she remains curious, eager to learn and ready to accept life as it comes. When other people rebuke children as the disciples do in today’s Gospel, she responds as Jesus did: “Let them come to me.” With open arms and the light of a smile on her face, she responds to the Gospel call and reflects for the children in her life what belongs to them: the kingdom of Heaven.
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is not the only evidence of children’s privileged place in the kingdom of heaven and in God’s heart; similar passages also appear in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. People like my grandmother, whether they do so in schools or community programs or in their own families, make Jesus’ sentiment a natural part of culture. When we show children the delight that exists for them, we inch history closer to the kingdom of heaven—the one that Jesus said belongs to the littlest among us.