This week has been a challenging one; the interior transformation and conversion necessary for life in the Kingdom is not easy. Yet Jesus tells us today that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the childlike. Are we overthinking this Kingdom thing? Not at all. Rather, we are under-trusting our King.
To be childlike, as Jesus encourages us today, is to be like a child in our heart, in our relationship with God. Consider the almost blind trust children ideally have in their parents. Children don’t worry about where their next meal will come from, don’t worry about money, about where they will live, or that their parents will harm or mistreat them. This deep trust allows children a degree of freedom we often miss as adults, such that some adults gradually slip into childish behaviors in an attempt to recapture the freedoms and joys they once enjoyed as children.
But Jesus is not telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the childish. He holds up the child as a teacher, as an example of the kind of heart and soul that He desires in us all. He desires a heart that is open, which errs on the side of love and trust rather than suspicion and fear. He desires not a heart that has become ossified in its relationship with God, not having grown or deepened since childhood, but a heart that is constantly yearning to know God more. And more. Remember that stage of childhood when the word “Why?” was nearly as constant as our very breath? Why do we lose that when it comes to our faith in adulthood, when we are so easily content with a religious knowledge and relationship with God that hasn’t changed since our days in Sunday School? Certainly the mysteries of the faith are deep enough that our “whys” will not exhaust them!
What Jesus teaches us today is this: to prepare for life in the Kingdom, we must grow, but not in the way the world often expects us to, telling us that we need to be more self-sufficient, more powerful, more serious, and so on. Rather, we must become more and more like children, growing into the reality of our baptismal identity as Children of God. This means humility, dependence, and a deep trust of which we are hardly conscious as it becomes the basis of our relationship to the Father. The kind of trust Jesus displayed when asleep in the boat during the storm (Mark 4:38), or in the Garden when He desires only to do the Father’s will, though it surely will lead to suffering and death. (Luke 22:42)
Hasn’t our Father proven Himself to be worthy of complete trust? Can we not rely upon Jesus who walks upon water, who freely and willingly bows to worldly authority because He is not actually bound by it? Can we not trust Jesus who took His mother to Himself, and desires to take us as well, who encourages us to work with Him to heal divisions in this Body of which we are a part? This Jesus who never tires of forgiving us, and encourages us to forgive likewise, who condemns divorce not because marriage is easy, but because He has promised never to divorce us? The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and it is His Hand, pierced for love of you, that has established it in our midst. Listen to His call, trust Him with a childlike heart, and enjoy that long-awaited freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)