The scene that we heard about in the reading earlier has been repeated many times throughout history. There are many instances which can be seen online of children approaching great teachers, some getting through the security, others being pushed away. But in today’s Gospel, the greatest teacher of them all tells his followers that they mustn’t get between the children and him.
Children coming to great teachers and holy men is nothing new, it is a practice from antiquity. In Genesis 48.13-20 we read of Joseph bringing Ephraim and Manasseh to Israel to be blessed.
Jesus didn’t just bless the children. He used them to illustrate his message as he is recorded to have done in many other places in the Gospels of St Luke and St Matthew as well as the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. Jesus said,
“Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”
The simplicity of a child. Quite a challenge to those of us who have passed into adulthood, have grown up, and had to leave our childish behaviour and thinking behind to survive in the world in which we live.
As I was reading this passage this morning, re-reading it, time and again, to see what I should say tonight, I realised something quite special. When a person becomes a member of the Church, when a person accepts Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of mankind, that person becomes a child of God. We are all children. Thinking in another way, Jesus lived on earth as a man around two-thousand years ago. By anyone’s reckoning those of us living today are like children compared to Him.
So what do we do now? What is this passage saying to us gathered here today in our time and place?
To me, it is a reinforcement of the central message of Jesus – a message of a God of Love. A God who does not push people away, but welcomes them in and blesses them. As members of the Church, it is our duty to share this Love to all that we meet.
Tomorrow, many people will be walking in the Belfast Pride Parade as it winds its way around the city centre and back to Custom House Square for a huge party. Some of us from Faith and Pride will be standing as a witness of God’s Love for all of his children just outside the gates of St George’s in High Street, just as we did at last year’s parade. Everyone on that parade and everyone in the whole world is worthy of our respect and our love, for as Blessed John XXIII – whose imminent canonisation was announced today – said,
“We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.”
Surely we must all work within the Church to ensure that all are welcomed, not pushed away. We’re all children, and like little children we will be welcomed, and blessed by Jesus, when we approach Him now, and when we reach the end of our life, we can safely ask Him,
“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Friday 5 July 2013.