Let the Children Come to Me

“Let the children come to me” is a line from one of my favorite stories of the bible,  It is a point of intersection where the disciples are feeling annoyed and irritated by the children playing around, feeling perhaps some element of pride as they think they know better what is needed for a teaching moment.  And then, there’s Jesus wanting to highlight the simplicity and humility of children.

It was the end of this summer when I found myself reflecting on this story.  The air felt warm, although it was tempered by a slight breeze.  The clear blue sky with occasional cloud gave me energy and excitement for soccer practice that day.  As I finished lacing up my soccer shoes, I saw the middle-Schoolers roll in for practice.  We were in pre-season and about two weeks away from our first game.

I was an assistant coach last year and I’m doing it again this year.  My responsibilities are not as heavy as the head coach’s job, but I have been wondering if I would like to get back into that position.  There’s a certain excitement that goes along with managing a team, in particular as it relates to teaching children how to play the game, from developing their individual technical skills to learning the tactical aspect of how to play as a team.  The last team I coached was a competitive U19 travel team before I decided to take a break a few years ago.  Now I’m looking at a group of kids who have a wide range of skill, from never having played on a team to some who are playing travel soccer.

As we went through practice, I found myself following instructions and commands from the head coach to help the kids with their drills.  It was in this state of humility that I found myself in the Ignatian style of prayer one more time with Jesus in the foreground.  We were in Capernaum where Jesus had done many teachings.  The weather was comfortably warm with a slight breeze coming from the west.  The simple tunic I wore seemed cool enough as we sat in the shade.  The houses were close by and there were multiple open areas for children to play.  As Matthew in Chapter 18 recounted the story, “at that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, who he put among them, and said, “truly, I tell you unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” 1

I thought of this story and realized that being an assistant to help these children of God was actually a gift that God had given me to help me be more humble and more obedient.  I desire nothing more than to be God’s servant so that I can be one with Jesus as I set my sights in God’s kingdom.  It is only in this state of accepting humbly and receiving God’s love that I can return love to God.

Now two weeks later from that soccer practice, I find myself in mass today contemplating the first reading from Jeremiah and the love he is feeling for God.  Jeremiah finds himself at odds with the chief officer Pashhur in the house of the Lord.  After Jeremiah’s prophecies that terror will beset Jerusalem, Pashhur “struck the prophet and put him in the stocks at the upper gate of Benjamin in the House of the Lord.” (Jer 20:2)

Jeremiah finds himself in internal turmoil and exclaims, “you duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped.  You were too strong for me, and you prevailed.  All day long I am the object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” (Jer 20:7).

But despite his internal struggle, he cannot contain his love for God: “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name.  But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.  I grow weary holding back, I cannot.” (Jer 20:9)

This living flame of God, as St. John of the Cross explains in his book2, consumes my heart and wants me to do nothing else but to please God.  I want to get close to God, but I have to do it from a humble position, obedient to God and to God’s people.  Only by being like a simple child, pure in heart and feeling free with the Holy Spirit, can I “go here or there,” and be God’s servant, can I be more like Jesus.

Psalm 63:2-9 pops into my head, a psalm of David when he has in the wilderness of Judah.  I rest in God’s arms as I pray this psalm3:

Oh, God, you are my God –

it is you I seek!

for you, my body yearns;

for you, my soul thirsts

in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.

I look to you in the sanctuary

to see your power and glory

for your love is better than life;

my lips shall ever praise you!

I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.

My soul shall be sated as with choice food,

with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!

I think of you upon my bed,

I remember you through the watches of the night.

you indeed are my savior,

And in the shadow of your wings, I shout for joy.

My soul clings fast to you, your right hand upholds me.


  1. Matthew 18: 1-5. Bible Gateway, New International Version.
  2. The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross. Cosimo Classics, New York, 2007.  Translation by David Lewis.
  3. Psalm 63, New American RE Bible in Laudate App,

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