Jesus and children

Rino Cammilleri

As it is well known, Marx was not affectionate with religion (“opium of the people”) and in Christianity, he saw at most the dialectical time of the passage from the ancient world to the medieval one. But of one thing he was grateful to Christianity: to have been taught to love children. We Westerners are now accustomed to soothe them, cuddle them, adore them, so we cannot imagine a time when it was not like this.


If you do not become like children


With this in mind, therefore, we must go back to the Apostles’ dismay when they see their Master embracing the children. They were noisy – as always – and threatened to disturb the venerable Rabbi. The Apostles, therefore, seek to send them away, but they were astonished by Christ’s halt. He not only embraces them, but also goes to the extent of pointing them out as an example: “If you do not become like these children you will never enter the Kingdom …” In fact, the disciples remain astonished. They did not have to become masters in religion, scholars in Scripture and commentaries, no. But candid as children. And even illiterate, if necessary. Unheard of. But Jesus does more: He embraces children. He threatens the most severe sanctions, he that was so merciful – to those who dare to scandalize one of these children: a millstone on his neck and down into the sea.

Unheard of

The world around him considered childhood a nuisance, a harassment to get rid of as soon as possible. The Roman father (and the Romans were the most advanced civilly) waited for the midwife slave, who lay before him his last born. The ceremony demanded that the father would take the child in his arms and lift him up. In this case, the child was accepted. Otherwise he would be “exposed,” i.e., left in some corner or crossroad: if he survived, a slave merchant could decide to raise him. Or leave him there. For females it was even worse, because females – who were not valuable even for the very civil Romans – needed a dowry and so they were, in short, a burden. The females did not even have a proper name, their family name sufficed. Everything depended, in short, on the good heart (or calculation) of the pater familias. And if this was done by the Romans …

Everything changes with Christianity

Christians in the Roman Empire stand out because they do not expose their children. In fact, they raise them, all those who were born, with utmost respect, remembering the teaching of Jesus Christ in this regard. And since then, with the passing of centuries, countless saints have thought of those children that fate has left alone. You cannot imagine an orphanage (a Christian invention) without a nun. The Church has canonized children from the beginning, starting with Saint Tarcisius, a martyr at the time of Nero. And for now, he closed the circle with the two Shepherds of Fatima, canonized on May 13. They were eight and ten years old. But the whole story of Christian sanctity is full of children, a sign that the Church has perfectly understood the lesson of that day when Jesus embraced some of the little Jews and scolded the disciples who wanted to send them away. Woe betide those who touch the children.

(Original title: “Gesù non perdona chi tocca i più piccoli,” from Il Giornale, 24/05/2017. 2017©AP. Used with permission)



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