14 When Jesus saw this…he said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
What does it mean to “receive” like a little child? “What does Jesus mean?” I used to wonder when I would read this passage. No one wants to be a “little child”; even little kids want to be like the big kids. So, for many years this saying of Jesus’ used to perplex me.
Children come to their parents (and other trusted adults) with open hearts and open hands. They understand their complete dependency upon their parents and others who love them for comfort, for their physical, psychological and spiritual needs. They trust that their parents will protect and nurture them. They have faith and trust in their parents, and are open to receiving what they need. Then, they respond in love and gratitude. Adults need this kind of trust and faith in God, and to approach God in the ways that children approach their parents. Only then will they have the “peace” that Jesus continually wished for his disciples.
In the last few years, as I have been engaged with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I have come to understand the importance of surrendering to God. I understand but that does not mean that I am there yet. Surrender is all about understanding in a deep way that I am in control of very little in this life. I put my complete trust in God, knowing that God loves me with a limitless, unconditional love and wants what is best for me. I rest in that knowledge. Furthermore, I understand that I do not even know myself and have only vague, undeveloped ideas about what kind of healing and help I need. So, I try to open myself to God and ask that God transform me in the way God knows that I need to change and grow. I trust that if I have the desire to pray, and make time for prayer, and open myself to the Holy Spirit, then God is always successful. I trust I will change and grow into the person God wants me to be, even if I can’t feel it or am not conscious about it. Surrender and trust in God and the boundless, merciful, and generative love of God are what faith is all about.
As Advent approaches, may we all come to the manger scene ready to “receive” as a little child, and, in return, respond with love. Amen.