All Are Welcome

August 19, 2023
Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

Saint John Eudes, Priest—Optional Memorial

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Children were brought to Jesus 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…” Matthew 19:13–14

In the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V, this passage is linked with infant baptism. It states, “Besides, it is not to be supposed that Christ the Lord would have withheld the Sacrament and grace of Baptism from children, of whom He said: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me…” (II, 2, 32). This teaching clearly indicates one of the best ways that this passage is fulfilled today. Inviting even infants before they reach the age of reason to receive the Sacrament of Baptism fulfills this loving command of Jesus to “Let the children come to me…”

Young children do not have the ability to rationally understand love in its purest form. That comes with the age of reason, which has traditionally been understood to be around the age of seven. But children, and even infants, are capable of receiving our love and are capable of receiving the love of God, even if they do not yet fully comprehend this gift.

As a child grows, they learn what love means as they witness it and experience it, especially through the mediation of their parents. This helps form their consciences in such a way that they become capable of making their own free choice to love as they mature in age. But if a child is to grow into a loving adult, they need more than just a good example, they need grace. The grace of Baptism is the primary source of that grace in their lives.

It’s easy for many to see Baptism only as a nice ceremony to welcome the newly born child into God’s family. And though that is true, it is so much more. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Baptism bestows an indelible mark which “remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church” (CCC #1121). In other words, Baptism bestows upon one’s soul a gift that can never be removed and becomes an ongoing source of grace. And when an infant is baptized, it’s as if this Scripture passage above is perpetuated throughout that person’s life. Because of this sacramental grace, Jesus continually says to this baptized soul, “Come to Me.”

In addition to the grace of Baptism, we must all imitate Jesus’ action of welcome and acceptance of not only children but of every child of God. Though the disciples initially tried to prevent the children from coming to our Lord, we must not. We must understand that there is a real temptation within our fallen human nature to both withhold the love of God from others and to even prevent others from coming to God. Anger, pride, envy, jealousy and the like can cause us to object to the conversion of others and to God welcoming them to Himself. When that temptation sets in, we must hear Jesus say to us, “Let the children come to me” and “do not prevent them.”

Reflect, today, upon these gentle and inviting words of Jesus. As you do, try to call to mind anyone who you might try to prevent from coming to our Lord. Do you desire the holiness of all people? Is there anyone in your life whom you find it difficult to encourage to come to Jesus to be embraced and blessed? Take on the heart of Jesus and see it as your duty to embrace others as He embraced these children. The more you become an instrument of the love of Christ, the more you will daily rejoice in God’s blessings as they are bestowed on others.

My tender Lord, You welcome all people to share in Your grace. You welcome every child and every child of God to share in Your loving embrace. Please extend that welcome to me and help me to accept this gift of Your infinite love. And help me to become a better instrument of Your love toward others, never interfering or preventing them from turning to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Novena to Saint Monica
(Especially prayed for wayward children)
August 18-26

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Saint of the Day – Saint John Eudes, Priest

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Featured image above: Christ Blessing Little Children By Charles Lock Eastlake, via Wikimedia Commons