From our Maryknoller in Hong Kong Fr. John Cioppa.
...I can see why Jesus loved children. He saw them as so genuine. At their stage of life they were still open and sincere and still so trusting. My two nieces gave me a greater appreciation of why Jesus chose a child as a model that we should imitate and learn from. The image He put forward as the ideal to strive for was not an image of a great hero or person of great strength or powerㅡ not even an old wise man or saint from the Old Testament. The image of true greatness was the image of a child and that's the secret of the spirituality of Jesus Himself.
I am sure we have all been moved by a mother holding a child in her arms or a child sleeping on its mother's shoulder. They are so full of trust. They have no reason to mistrust anyone or anything. It is only as we grow older that we learn to mistrust, becoming fearful and suspicious of others. Feelings of fear are natural especially in a situation of danger, and I' m sure Jesus experienced these some feelings of fear., We are told that he sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane when threatened with arrest, torture, and death. But He trusted His Father and prayed that famous prayer, "Your will be done" (Mk 14:36). Jesus experienced fear but His response was one of trust in His Father.
Another remarkable quality of a healthy child is a sense of wonder. Everything is new and surprising. I can still see the expressions on the faces of my nieces when the wind blew the leaves and flower during a rainstorm and when the rain stopped, running out to play in the puddles on the sidewalk. For a child everything is new and magical. As we grow older we lose that sense of wonder.Everything becomes ordinary and taken for granted. When the wind blows the leaves and flowers bend and when the rain is over there are puddles on the sidewalk. But our reaction is," So what?" Not so with the child. One of the ways of staying young is to try to preserve that sense of wonder. Nature is a good place to start. Just take a moment to become conscious of the world around us: the beautiful scenery, mountains, the astronauts living on a space station for three months. Eventually we too begin seeing everything as mysteries: the oceans, flowers, grass, trees. Then there are all the marvels of science, like taking a space ship to the moon. Jesus had a deep sense of wonder. He was enthralled by the beauty of the lilies of the field, the birds of the air (Mt. 6:28), and the wheat that grows quietly and invisibly while the farmer sleeps ( Mk. 4:28). In all these marvels of nature, Jesus shows the mysterious hand of God. He was a mystic and a poet
One final quality we associate with childhood is playfulness, laughter and fun. Children laugh so easily. They pretend they are gown-ups: doctors, nurses, teachers, mother, firemen or policemen. Jesus also noticed the kids playing in the marketplace, some singing the songs of weddings, others the songs of funerals ( Lk. 7:32). Unfortunately we tend to lose this playfulness as we g row up and become more serious.We often think of the saints as serious, humourless, quiet people. Not so. Just consider St. Francis. He used to sing to the birds and flowers and roll in the snow in wintertime. Some even say that Jesus wasn't a joyful person because the Gospels never say He laughed. When we see His great love for children, I am sure He smiled and laughed all the time.
Jesus' choice of a little child as a model provides us with an image of the kind of person we need to become if we are to become like Him. The image of a childlike joyful personality I think gives us a good idea of the person of Jesus Himself. And he told us to imitate His love as He imitates the love of the Father.
The next time you see children playing, or a new born baby or a mother holding an infant in her arms look closely to see if you can see Jesus.