Jul 27, 2006
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3) With these words, Christ charges his followers to become like little children. But what does that mean? Surely Christ is not telling us to be irresponsible and immature as little children often are. No, Christ is not telling us to be childish, but rather, childlike. This can be better understood by examining Christ’s next assertion, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:4) Being childlike in the eyes of God means being humble enough to acknowledge that God is the One who created us and provides for us. It means accepting our dependence on God and trusting in His divine love and providence.
A small child is completely unashamed to ask his parents for the things he needs. If he is hungry, he asks for food. If he is thirsty, he asks for water. In the simplicity of his childhood, he accepts his dependence on his parents. He knows that he cannot provide for himself, and he is always willing to ask for help.
Just as a small child will readily ask his human father for the things he needs, we must be unashamed to ask our Heavenly Father to provide for our needs. Too many times, our pride prevents us from acknowledging our need for God. We try to do things on our own, forgetting the words of St. Paul, who reminds us that I can do nothing on my own, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
This is a difficult message for Christians of all ages, but especially difficult for teenagers. In the transition from childhood to adulthood, many teenagers are eager to grow up and try to distance themselves from anything that seems remotely childlike. Because they associate physical and emotional maturity with independence from their parents, it is difficult for them to understand that spiritual maturity actually calls for a greater level of dependence on God. The struggle to understand this truth is made more difficult by a culture that glorifies doing things on your own. Today’s popular movies, books, and songs continually stress the importance of independence and portray asking for help as a sign of weakness.
Asking for help, however, it not a sign of weakness, but a sign of humility. Even Jesus, the perfect God-Man, turned to his Heavenly Father in times of need. Christ gives us a perfect example of childlike reliance on God. Throughout his ministry, he relied on God to provide for him, and he was never disappointed. As he suffered his agony in the garden, he cried out “Abba,” a word that can best be translated not as “Father,” but as “Daddy,” a personal, informal address that a small child would use to call his father when he was frightened.
Jesus called on the Father as a kind, loving Daddy who would come to his aid. We must do the same. We must acknowledge that God is our merciful, loving Daddy - without Him we can do nothing; with Him we can do anything. We must embrace our dependence on Him and place our trust in Him, living as a small child who is perfectly confident that his father will continue to provide for all his needs. Only then can we truly live as Christians, relying on our loving Father to care for us.