Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I always tell people there is no greater gift you can give someone than an authentically catholic childhood.
Here, in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew's gospel, we have positive proof. These children
are brought to Jesus by their mothers and fathers that this holy man or wise teacher or--as we know and maybe they believed--Messiah and God might lay his hands upon them or perhaps even embrace them. And so the Church is given a manifesto. Is it not the Church, after all, known to be the body of Christ?
It is a marvelous image that Jesus should receive and embrace the children, that he should wrap his protective and loving arms around them. And that they, in all their little obedience to the prodding of their mothers, should approach him trustingly, be drawn to his body, his warmth, and even the kisses of grace that fall upon them from his head. All of this is given to us as an image of the Church's role in the life of man.
Yet amazingly (and scandalously) the apostles try to prevent such a thing from happening. The twelve here representing the very hierarchy they will establish put themselves at odds with the very mission of the Church and are decidedly rebuked by the Lord himself. The bishops and priests of his Church are to be hospitable to even the littlest of her members--and apparently some of the most important. It is to them, in the end, to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.
I imagine, too, that were we all able to approach the Lord and his Church as these children,
ready, available and willing, in innocence and trust, we too would receive such love as only the Body of Jesus Christ can give to us. We have been given much, those of us who were carried to the baptismal fount, who like these little ones were brought to the Lord's body by our parents that he should lay his hands upon us and bless us and we should abide in the comfort of his body, the Church, and all she has to offer us, namely, the Kingdom of God.
+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
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