Jesus confirms that the only way to heaven is to become like a little child, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” So it is possible for us to do all that we are doing now supposedly for the sake of the kingdom but still miss out on this kingdom because we do not have that fundamental disposition of becoming like little children.
So we must ask what it means to become like little children on our way to the Father’s kingdom. How do we know that we are doing and enduring all things with a childlike disposition as we strive for the kingdom of God?
Our language in our relationship with God and with ourselves will show how childlike we are. There are five ways that we can know if our language reflects that of God’s children bound for heaven or not.
1. “Thank you, Lord.” To enter into the kingdom of God, we must see it as first and foremost a gift from God and not something that we can merit or earn in anyway. It is Jesus Christ alone who reveals the kingdom to us, makes it present in Himself, and affords us entry into this kingdom. We can neither believe in this kingdom nor lay claim to it apart from the merits of Christ won for us on the Cross and disposed to us in the sacraments of the Church, beginning with holy baptism. Though we are sinners with the potential to sin again, we must embrace the kingdom of God with gratitude because “Christ died for us while we were still sinners,”(Rom 5:8), His grace is “sufficient for us,”(2Cor 12:9) and He has come “not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Lk 5:32) The kingdom of God remains a gift no matter what we have to do or suffer to possess it.
2. “I cannot do anything on my own.” We must humbly admit that on our own, we cannot do anything worthy of the kingdom. We need the light and strength of divine grace to enlighten us to the beauty and glory of this mysterious kingdom, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”(Lk 17:20) On our own, we cannot turn away from sin and all that is contrary to the divine will, love like Christ Jesus, cooperate with the His grace, and follow Him till the end of our lives. It is by the grace of God alone that we can embrace the mystery of the cross and suffering in our lives and be faithful to His divine will even at great costs. As Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing,”(Jn 15:5); in addition, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”(Phil 4:13)
3. “Jesus, I trust in you.” Lest we fall into discouragement after admitting our inability to do anything without the grace of God, we place all our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and we depend on Him alone for everything. We trust in Jesus’ words to us and His promises to us and in the redemption that He has already won for us. We trust not only in the person of Jesus, but in the mysterious ways that He brings us into His kingdom. We trust that He chooses to communicate His own divine life to us through the sacramental signs of bread and wine in the Eucharist, “This is my body… this is my blood.”(Mt 26:26,28) We trust that the seed of the kingdom is growing mysteriously in this weak and sinful Catholic Church. We trust that He offers us in His kingdom communion with His own mother too, “Behold, your mother.”(Jn 19:27) We do not just trust in Jesus and His words and promises to us also, but also in the mysterious ways that He chooses to bring us into His kingdom.
4. “Lord Jesus, please help me.” If our trust in Jesus is as it should be, then we shall approach Jesus in all our needs with confidence as He invites us to do, “Ask and you shall receive… whoever asks receives.”(Mt 7:7) We can make all our requests and needs known to Him without any shame or fear of our prayers not being granted. As God’s children, we pray with the certainty that our prayers will be answered according to God’s mysterious holy will for our good and for the good of others.
5. “Lord, I come to do your will.” Having expressed our prayers sincerely and confidently from the heart, we will seek the will of God above all things. Filled with the sense of God’s goodness, we know that what God wills is the very best for us. We do not seek to please ourselves but to please God in all that we do. We would not be content in claiming that He is our Lord and master, but we will seek to do His will above all things, “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of God, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”(Mt 7:21)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Readings on the Feast of the Santo Niño fill us with this hope that is ours as God’s children. We now have access to God because “a child is born to us, a son is given us.” In this son, Jesus Christ, God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens.” In this son, God has “destined us for adoption to Himself.”
In today’s Gospel, we see this same Jesus Christ becoming indignant at His disciples who try to prevent the children from being brought to Him, “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” In Jesus Christ, God has drawn near to us all. Yet the children in today’s Gospel cannot approach Him on their own but they depend on others to bring them to Jesus. They have a sense of their need for the blessings of Jesus as well as their need for help to approach Him.
What prevents us from approaching Jesus like the children of God that we are? Has the sins and sufferings of our lives made us take the gift of His kingdom for granted? Are we trying to enter His kingdom by our own efforts and wisdom? Can we humbly admit our need for His help? Are we trusting in Him to the point that we accept the often mysterious ways that He chooses to guide us to His kingdom? Does our prayer life show that we depend on Him alone for all our needs? Where are we placing our trust today? Are we bent on doing our own will because we think we know what is best for us?
The image of the Santo Niño reminds us that Jesus has come to us in the form of an infant born of the Virgin so that we too may approach God as His beloved children. He comes to us hidden under the form of bread and wine in today’s Eucharist because He desires to treat us like He treated the children in today’s gospel, “He embraced the children and blessed them, placing His hands on them.” We have access to the embrace, blessings, and touch of Jesus that we need in this life to remain faithful to Him and to enter into His heavenly kingdom. All we have to do is always speak from the depths of our hearts the language of the heaven-bound children of God: “Thank you, Lord… I cannot do anything on my own….I trust in you, Lord…Please help me, Lord…Lord, I come to do your will.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!