Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What did "Jesus & the Children" REALLY look like?

You know how Scripture mentions that children were brought to Jesus?
Then children were brought to him 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. ~Matt 19:13-15
I've seen many images that depict this scene. Typically, Jesus has finely combed hair and perfectly-draped garments, and calm, happy children are peacefully clustered at his feet or in his lap. These pictures are serene. Yet, I wonder: did the scene really look like this? 

Public domain. Source.
Perhaps, things looked quite differently. Imagine children of all ages-some babies and toddlers, even-scattered around the area. Some kids standing near Jesus poke each other incessantly amid their mothers' stern whispers of stop touching each other! A few overtired babies wail. Toddlers scamper around, getting distracted. Yes, they think this man called Jesus is nice, but look! It's a butterfly! A few of the more mischievous children even go after the disciples-crawling between their legs, pulling at their garments, asking them what's that? as they point to various plants, bugs, and rocks. Yes, there are the one or two quiet children who dutifully sit at Jesus' feet and listen to him, but the rest of the group is all over the place. Their mothers try to bring them all close to Jesus at once, but they might as well be herding feral cats. 

We need to keep this image-with tousled hair and energetic children-in our minds. We need to place it in the forefront of our church communities. While yes, children can certainly be reverent and calmly observant at times, we cannot (and should not) expect all young children to be silent, with bowed heads and folded hands and every time they step into church. Young children, particularly toddlers,  have boundless energy. We can guide and teach them how to be prayerfully attentive, but this is a process that needs to respect their developmental stage. We need to remember what normal behavior looks like for children. On top of that, we should recall that every person has a different temperament. Some children will be more naturally inclined to sit quietly than others. 

When Jesus said "Let the children come to me," he meant it.
Even if your child can't seem to focus at all.
Even if your child has a tendency to wander around.
Even if your child wants to ask questions nonstop.
Even if your child has a developmental disorder.
Even if your child is fidgety. 

Not only that, but if Jesus wanted to "lay his hands on them and pray," the children would, logically, need to come close to him. So, we shouldn't feel like we need to lurk in the cryroom or the back pew. We need to bring our children to Mass.  We need to bring our children to Adoration (if your parish doesn't already have a Children's Holy Hour, then start one!). Our parishes may not look as idyllic as a piece of religious artwork, but our goal shouldn't be to imitate a glossy (perhaps idealized) image of a biblical scene. Our goal should be to imitate Christ, and to heed his words. So come to him.


  1. Great reminder, AnneMarie. I sometimes grow frustrated when my kids won't pay attention when we read from the Bible or when they are bouncing off the walls when we are memorizing Bible verses. There's definitely a time and place for learning to sit still (this is a skill they will need in many settings and contexts), but it's also important to remember that they are just kids. Jesus loves them as they are. He made them with all their energy and curiosity.
    It's also good to remember that, in so many ways, we are just like our kids. We're fidgety. We often can't focus. We are full of questions. Yet Jesus wants us to draw near, too.

    1. Oh Shannon, you make an excellent point about us being like our kids! The way my mind can bounce around and get distracted during Mass or other times of prayer could probably make some kids tired ;) God is so good for loving us and wanting us to draw near, even when we have days where we just can't seem to focus at all.

  2. This is a great post. Recently I watched a Bible video done by my church of the account where the disciples try to send people away because Jesus is tired, and I had a bit of an eye opener. I'd always just previously thought the disciples were being jerks, but in that video Jesus' face DID look tired, and He probably was. But he still wanted to bless the children, anyway. Gave me insight on what I should be doing as a very, very tired mom.

  3. Such an interesting scene to picture, AnneMarie! I've never thought of it like that, but makes total sense. It's the best when Mass is full of kids, and their energy is just a reminder that our Church will continue :-)