REFLECTION FOR TODAY
August 14, 2021
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
Children were brought to Jesus 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…” Matt. 19:13-14.
The invitation of Jesus in our gospel reference today summarizes the primary responsibility of Christian parents. Parents are called to nourish the seed of faith in their children so that it can grow into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
We all want our children to succeed. We all want to provide for them and give them good gifts. Introducing them to Jesus and setting a good Christian example for them is the best gift we can possibly give them. And this is what constitutes true parental love.
The teaching of the Church clearly indicates that one of the ways our gospel reference is fulfilled is through baptism. Inviting even infants before they reach the age of reason to receive the Sacrament of Baptism fulfills the loving command of Jesus to “Let the children come to me…”
Young children do not have the ability to rationally understand love in its purest form. That comes with the age of reason, which has traditionally been understood to be around the age of seven. But children, and even infants, can receive our love and can receive the love of God, even if they do not yet fully comprehend this gift.
As a child grows, they learn what love means as they witness it and experience it, especially through the mediation of their parents. This helps form their consciences in such a way that they become capable of making their own free choice to love as they mature in age. But if a child is to grow into a loving adult, they need more than just a good example, they need grace. The grace of Baptism is the primary source of that grace in their lives.
Baptism bestows upon one’s soul a gift that can never be removed and becomes an ongoing source of grace. And when an infant is baptized, it’s as if this Scripture passage above is perpetuated throughout that person’s life. Because of this sacramental grace, Jesus continually says to this baptized soul, “Come to Me.”
The grace of Baptism, we must all imitate Jesus’ action of welcome and acceptance of not only children but of every child of God. Though the disciples initially tried to prevent the children from coming to our Lord, we must not. We must understand that there is a real temptation within our fallen human nature to both withhold the love of God from others and to even prevent others from coming to God.
Reflect, today, upon these gentle and inviting words of Jesus. As you do, try to call to mind anyone who you might try to prevent from coming to our Lord. Do you desire the holiness of all people? Is there anyone in your life whom you find it difficult to encourage to come to Jesus to be embraced and blessed? Take on the heart of Jesus and see it as your duty to embrace others as He embraced these children. The more you become an instrument of the love of Christ, the more you will daily rejoice in God’s blessings as they are bestowed on others.
Lord, You welcome all people to share in Your grace. You welcome every child and every child of God to share in Your loving embrace. Please extend that welcome to me and help me to accept this gift of Your infinite love. And help me to become a better instrument of Your love toward others, never interfering or preventing them from turning to You. Jesus, I trust in You.