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Aug 23, 2022 162 Father Joseph Gill, USA
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Q&A:Should Christians Be Like Children or Put Away Childish Things?

Q – Jesus tells us that we need to “become like little children” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but St. Paul tells us that we should be mature Christians (Ephesians 4). Which is it?

A – It is both! But let us examine what Jesus and St. Paul mean, for the virtues of children and of mature believers are different yet complementary.

First, what are the positive characteristics of children? They are innocent and pure, they are joyful, and they love wholeheartedly.

The mother of a seven-year-old boy named Christopher told me of the time she was telling her son the story of St. John Vianney. St. John Vianney was so holy that the devil once appeared to him and told him that if there were three men as holy as he on the earth, the devil’s kingdom would be destroyed. Upon hearing that story, Christopher started to cry. When his mother asked him what was wrong, Christopher said, “I am sad that there has only been one person that holy on earth. I want to be the second!” This child-like wholehearted love is what Jesus calls us to imitate.

Children often laugh because they don’t take themselves too seriously. They can be silly because they are not self-conscious and proud. Jesus wants us to live with that same abandon!

Frequently, a young child will give me a big hug – even if I have never met them before! In their innocence and purity, they can love others unconditionally. This is how we are called to behave. Children don’t judge others by their clothes or looks; they see only a potential friend.

Jesus calls us to be childlike. But we must distinguish between being childlike and being childish, which means displaying the selfishness, ignorance, and fickleness that also characterize children.

St. Paul tells us we should not be children in the faith, but mature men and women in Christ. What does it mean to be mature in Christ? A mature believer has persevered through difficulties, walks in deep intimacy with Christ, and possesses wisdom.

I teach at a Catholic school called Cardinal Kung Academy, named after Cardinal Ignatius Kung. Cardinal Kung was a Chinese bishop who had been arrested by the ruling Communist party in 1955 and imprisoned for over 30 years, many of which were in solitary confinement. After years of imprisonment and torture, the authorities brought him to a packed stadium in Beijing where he was expected to deny the Faith. Instead, he stood up in front of tens of thousands and declared, “Long live Christ the King!” With great affection the people responded, “Long live Bishop Kung!” This infuriated the authorities, who increased their torture of the bishop, but he never abandoned the Faith.

Here is a disciple who persevered through intense suffering, forging spiritual maturity in the harsh crucible of trials and tribulations. After he escaped to the US in 1986, he testified that it was his daily, intimate prayer with Jesus Christ that allowed him to stand firm in faith. Through it all, he came out without any bitterness or anger, but overflowing with wisdom.

So, to follow Christ is to have the beautiful virtues of children –singlehearted, unconditional love; bubbling joy and wonder; innocence and purity – and the tried-and-true perseverance, wisdom, and daily intimacy with the Lord that characterize those who are mature in faith. May we follow Christ living a faith of childlike maturity!

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Father Joseph Gill

Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

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