In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, we are told that when people brought their children to Jesus for his blessing, they were rebuked by his disciples. We are also told that Jesus was indignant at the rebuke, telling his disciples, “Let the children come ot me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” He further told them that “however does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (As I read the last line of the Gospel, which tells us that Jesus “embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them”, I was reminded of some of the pictures I’ve seen of Pope Francis embracing children.)
What is it about children that causes Jesus to say this? What gives them a special ability to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
Certainly part of it has to do with children’s acceptance of their utter dependence on another – the essence of the first Beatitude: poverty of spirit. (I posted the other day a retreat talk I gave last weekend on poverty of spirit.)
But I think another part of it has to do with the fact that children possess an openness to mystery far greater than adults generally possess.
Edith Stein once observed that insights into the “truths of faith” do not require scholarly education and that “one need not believe by any means that these deep mysteries exceed the child’s powers of comprehension.” She further suggests that “[t]he strong desire to be introduced to the mysteries of God is often stronger in small children than in adults.”
I don’t know if I would phrase it as a stronger desire on the part of children, but it does seem to me that children do have an openness to mystery and an ability to experience it with bare awareness, in a way that may be more difficult for at least many adults.
Perhaps we might observe children so that we might learn something of their openness to mystery.