While reflecting on this Sunday’s Readings I was attracted towards the First Reading from Isaiah- towards the peace and harmony portrayed and established between animals, nature and in this instance little children –to quote some lines;

The wolf lives with the lamb
…with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.

And then the following beautiful words bring us consolation and hope in the midst of our war torn, violent and suffering world:

They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea. 

If only this were the present reality! Yet, Advent is the season of hope and we are called to keep this hope alive. These beautiful words of Isaiah paint a panorama of the harmony that reigned at the dawn of creation, only to be broken by sin and  they also describe the messianic peace that will come about with the coming of the Messiah- of Jesus, our Saviour. John the Baptist asks us to prepare his way by seeking a change of heart – by repentance.

What struck me especially in this passage from the Old Testament were the three references to children – the little boy, the infant and the young child- children not adults were part of these scenes of peace and harmony. In connecting this  to the repentance and  change of heart recommended in the Gospel I was reminded of Jesus’ saying in Matthew 18:3 “ Unless you turn ( or have a change of heart) and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. Or the passage in Luke ( 9:46-48)when an argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest and Jesus taking a little child, setting him by his side and saying anyone who welcomes this little child in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all is the one who is the greatest.

What is this saying to me, to us? What can I learn from this?  What are some of the attributes of little children that Jesus had in mind? Would it be perhaps that little children are free because they are not locked in an ivory tower of worldly wisdom? They are free because they are open to receive. Karl Rahner notes that to think in terms of spiritual childhood, as Therese of Lisieux did when she proposed her Little Way, suggests openness – an openness to becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Little children show they are free also by the way they live in the present moment, open to all and everyone around them: without trepidation in regard to the binding forces of the past or in a restricting fear of the future. I noticed that that passage is written in the present tense, even though it can also be interpreted for past and future events. Are we not all called to live in the present moment with full awareness of God’s presence both within and around us.

We could all gain so much if only we followed the way of childlike simplicity advocated by Jesus, the way of humility and trust that He himself modelled – daring to become the one the Lord calls each one of us to be; a vulnerable little child, one who both dares to show love and to allow one’s self to be loved, as only a little child knows how.

Then with all our defences down we can be sure of God’s favour, as in the words of this Sunday’s  psalm;

He, (God) shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.

Lord, teach us all the way of spiritual childhood in simplicity, trust and humility of heart. When we are tempted to want to be in control teach us to realise that we are truly being held by you and cared for, by you. May we always find our true security in you.