“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19,14) With these words, Christ is giving us a clear idea of how it is to be in heaven. We should be like little children, a bit messy perhaps but definitely with a pure heart devoid of any malice. We should strive to be like them in spite of our advanced age and exposure to the things of this world.
To be sure, it’s not a call to be childish, as in being whimsy, capricious, thoughtless. Rather we are asked to be always humble and simple, full of trust in the authorities and especially in the providence of God, and eager to believe in what is good, precisely like a child whose worries are few and not deep and lasting.
We have to remember that Christ also said that even while we have to be simple and innocent like doves, we should also be shrewd and clever like serpents. (cfr Mt 10,16) We have to find ways of how to blend these two apparently contrasting qualities together.
To be child-like is to have a lot of faith in God. It is to be led more by that faith than by our merely human estimation of things. It is to accept whatever happens in our life but always confident that God never abandons us and is leading us to him through the ups and downs of our life.
To be child-like is to have a pure and innocent heart, incapable of malice, ambition, pride and arrogance. It is to have the confidence that even our defects and mistakes, if immediately referred to God, do not really matter much.
To be child-like is to be transparent, simple and sincere, unafraid to be known as they really are, warts and all. The knowledge and vast experience they gain in life do not alter their simplicity which neither negates prudence and discretion.
To be child-like is to be welcoming to suggestions and corrections made on them. These do not make them feel humiliated, but rather thankful. To be child-like is to be teachable, flexible and docile. When one is child-like, he can be told anything and he tends to believe and obey. Attainments, achievements and successes do not spoil him. Neither do difficulties, temptations and failures crush them and plunge them to sadness or bitterness.
To be child-like is to be easy to be motivated and consoled. It is to be optimistic despite problems and difficulties. Falls and mistakes are easily forgotten. To be child-like is to be disposed to see things as they are, whether they are self-evident natural truths or highly mysterious supernatural realities. What is not understood is simply accepted and believed, relying simply on the recommendation of parents and elders.
To be child-like is to capture the spirit of the beatitudes, where being poor in spirit, being meek or in a state of mourning, being pure of heart and being persecuted, insulted and the like are no big problem. They are good occasions to go closer to God.
And more directly, St. Paul said: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13,11)*