All of us remember that passage from Scripture “let the children come to me”. Apparently, the well-intentioned disciples were making every effort to keep the children from being a bother. That might have been, but there is something that needs to be considered as well. In much of society around the time of Jesus, to be a child was not just something that had to do with age. There was a social progression from that of being a child to that of being an adult. To be an adult meant that you had taken on responsibilities that spanned being a husband, a provider for the extended family, and perhaps have a role in the duties of the Temple. It is well noted that Jesus probably did not qualify to be an adult or many of the persons he ministered to. Women, of course, we’re in a difficult situation. They did not have much consideration. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have been marginalized severely.
This passage calls on us as disciples of Christ, to make sure that the doors to church and our hearts are open to those whom society sets at the margins, and more than that, those that society frankly rejects and penalizes. No doubt, this is complicated, tragically as complicated as xenophobia and so many fear-filled aƫtudes that we harbor at an unconscious level. It is most significant to realize, however, that the call to allow the “children” to draw near to the Lord, is a call made to the disciples. Those early disciples were “children” that Jesus brought into his household, “children” who became adults, not according to social mores, but according to the dynamism of divine love. It is a good idea for us when we experience strong feelings, and in particular when we feel the need to reject another, to draw closer to the Lord. This spending time with the Lord brings renewal and healing.
Within this perspective, children and young people do need the doors to church and our hearts to be open. And, I might add, in new ways. The Youth Task Force has already begun to show us the way. They tell us that engaging each other in conversation is the way to proceed. I’m sure, many of us have been embarrassed by making assumptions. One assumption that we certainly need to set aside is that persons are problems to be solved. In all our efforts to be church, it is important for each of us to listen, to get to know, to create healthy relationships with everyone.
The Youth Task Force, after a number of peer-to-peer interviews, tells us that we need to create safe spaces for young persons to gather and space for them to be participants in all of what it means to be Church. Yes, we need to create spaces and opportunities for participation for everyone. We all belong to the household of Jesus.
Father Francisco Gómez, S.T