The way of spiritual childhood

Feast Day of Saint John Eudes

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 19:13–15

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;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

Quote of the Day
In Conversation With God, Vol. 4, Francis Fernandez

63.1 Christ’s love for children and for those who become like children.

Our Lord also reveals to us in this Gospel passage that his Kingdom belongs to those who become “as children.” This means having a clean heart and soul, being sincere and uncomplicated, without pride or pretensions. Before God we are indeed as little children, and should act accordingly. Being at the start of life, the child is open to any adventure. So it should be with you. Don’t put any obstacle in the way of your progressive union with Christ, a process which should continue throughout your whole life. [C. Lubich, Words of Life, 47]

63.2 Life of childhood and divine filiation.

In the Incarnation the Son of God could have presented himself to mankind as an angel, or as an all-powerful sovereign. Yet he chose to present himself in the weak and fragile condition of a new-born babe. He chose to be helpless as a child, as if He needed protection and love.

God has wanted us to imitate his Son in this choice, to become what in fact we are — helpless children constantly in need of God’s assistance. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  [1 John 3:1] These few words capture the fundamental truths of our Faith. They show us how we should deal with our God. To become like children … this requires a real change of heart that will transform all of our thoughts and actions. What must we do to become like children? First of all we must really have to want to be sons of God, ever docile to his Will, being of clean mind and body, humble and sincere. This desire is evidenced in the lives of the saints. As they have become more and more transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit they have increasingly seen themselves as sons of God. To become like children in the spiritual life is more than simply a beneficial  and praiseworthy devotion. It is the expressed desire  of the Lord. Although not every saint has manifested this attitude explicitly, this has been the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of each and every one.

A foolish child wails and stamps his feet when his loving mother puts  a needle to his finger to get a splinter out. A sensible child, on the other hand, perhaps with his eyes full of tears — for the flesh is weak — looks gratefully at his good mother who is making him suffer a little in order to avoid much greater harm. Jesus, may I be a sensible child. [Saint Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, 329] This is our request in this time of prayer — that we learn how to understand sickness, pain, apparent professional failure … that we shall find in such setbacks the providential hand of a Father who never ceases to watch over his sons and daughters. We will accept with a smile whatever life has to offer us, in good times and in bad, and we will se it as something sent or else permitted by Someone who is infinitely wise, Someone who is infinitely in love with us.

A life of childhood has nothing to do with behaving  childishly. A foolish child wails and stamps his feet … childishness has to do with personal immaturity, with a lack of self-discipline, with an overall absence of personal struggle. Such behavior can accompany people throughout their entire life. There are those who enter into old age, and even go to their deaths, without knowing they are children of God. True spiritual childhood  entails real maturity — supernatural vision, consideration of events with the eyes of faith and with the help of the Holy Spirit. This maturity brings with it sincerity and simplicity: its possessor has become a sensible child … In contrast, he who readily accedes to his whims, who gives in to his emotions and his every idea, who is constantly preoccupied  with himself, this person will not make progress on the way of spiritual childhood. The man who is simple as a child is completely taken up with the glory of his Father God, just as his Master was in his earthly life. The true child, the true son, the true daughter has a steady relationship with Abba, his and her Father.