Become like children
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Why do we have to become like children? Jesus knows this is not about growing backward. When we are growing up, all of our efforts are spent looking and acting older than we are. We want to impress others, and we try to imitate others. We lose our childhood by losing ourselves. We begin to imitate others and put on masks until we forget who we indeed are.
Before he or she goes through the ordeal of growing up, a simple child is himself. There is no great worry about appearing to be something different. Christ is asking of us authenticity that is born from humility. St. Bernard said that humility is “a virtue by which a man knows himself as he truly is. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of Humility.” Jesus is giving us the opportunity to be more like him.
The philosopher Heidegger spoke about authenticity in an exciting way. It is about whether you accept a routine version of tradition or whether you go back to the roots to decide for it. To just go along with it is to live a life of inauthenticity. So, as we grow up, we are called upon to rediscover the significance behind the traditions we live. When we feel that we are living a lie, we should go back and re-examine what we are doing and search for more profound reasons. When we feel that our lives are meaningless, we have to look closely and rediscover what we are doing. Where there is no meaning, place meaning, and you will find meaning, to paraphrase St. John of the Cross.
Why is it so essential to become humble and authentic to enter the Kingdom of God? One of our greatest struggles in this life can be with hypocrites. We naturally recoil when we find people who are putting on a false front. Would you want to live with such people forever? We are going to be in Heaven forever, so God wants to make sure we can all get along. What we do not purify while on earth, we will have to take care of in Purgatory. Becoming like little children puts us at the front of the line to get into Heaven because we already have the humility and authenticity we need.