Saturday, January 11, 2014

These Young Friends

As we begin to wrap up Christmas decorations, finish those leftover cookies, and write the final thank you notes, many of us are grateful that the normal routine of Ordinary Time is here. Celebrating the Incarnation is something joyous that we all look forward to, but our celebrations carry with them much traveling, cooking, and work around the house. The adults are ready to move on.

Children, on the other hand, are less willing to wave goodbye to their favorite time of year. It’s not just going back to school that saddens them. Nor is it the fact that no gifts remain under the tree. There is something about the mystery, the comfort, and the joy of Christmas that they will miss singing in their hearts.

In his 1994 “Letter to Children,” Blessed John Paul II recognizes how special Christ’s birth is to young ones. It is “the feast day of a Child,” and so children know that it is their feast day too. He wrote:

In what happened to the Child of Bethlehem you can recognize what happens to children throughout the world. It is true that a child represents the joy not only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of society.

He notes the similarities between the presentation of the Lord and the baptism of infants. Children who take part in religion lessons can also identify with the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple. There is much in the life of Jesus that young ones can relate to, even when they stretch their imaginations to Jesus’s adult life:

It is really true: this Child, now just born, once he is grown up, as Teacher of divine Truth, will show an extraordinary love for children. He will say to the Apostles: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," and he will add: "for to such belongs the kingdom of God" (Mk 10:14). Another time, as the Apostles are arguing about who is the greatest, he will put a child in front of them and say: "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3). On that occasion, he also spoke harsh words of warning: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mt18:6).

How important children are in the eyes of Jesus! We could even say that the Gospel is full of the truth about children. The whole of the Gospel could actually be read as the "Gospel of children."

These children who struggle to sit still in Mass, who break our dishes, and who track snow all over the floor are actually supposed to be models for us. Blessed John Paul II reminds us that we must have the faith of a child in order to become children of God.

He also reminds us to speak to our children about prayer and the sacraments, about the young saints like them, and most importantly, about Jesus and the God who loves them.  Our young ones should always be cherished as the joy of our families, and every child should know about the joy that he or she is made for.

Blessed John Paul II, Pray for Us!

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