“Unless you turn and become as children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
I was doing some reflecting on this simple verse and had some thoughts I’d like to share (for whatever they are worth).
Christ Became a Child
In the Incarnation, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity did just what He told us we must do — He became a child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
He had the complete and humble trust in His Heavenly Father that is required to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. But, it seems to me to go beyond that. His complete and humble trust was actually the beginning of His journey. I believe that goes for us as well. With that trust came the ultimate act of self-denial.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance (Philippians 2:7)
Instead of holding onto the things such as power and glory, He let go and let God His Father. He became a child and grew into a man, all the while running on empty. Despite His human development into a fully-grown man, He remained the child who emptied Himself and occupied a manger in Bethlehem. As long as the Spirit filled Him, what more did He need? He was rich. But, He wasn’t done.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered …. (Hebrews 5:8)
There was an inestimable value to that suffering:
… [A]nd when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:9)
The same goes for us; without becoming as a child that trusts fully in God and is detached from the world, we cannot enter into the Kingdom.
Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart. (1 Peter 1:22)
Jesus left us the roadmap that we are to unswervingly follow. We must indeed pick up our crosses and follow Him. Self-denial, obedience and trust in God, especially in our sufferings. They purify us for Heaven.
… [B]ut nothing unclean will enter it. (Rev 21:27)
How many of us will leave the Earth emptied of all things that distance us from God? Would we be prepared to leave everything and become a child laying in a manger, even in Heaven itself? I dare say, very few of us. That’s why I thank God for the mercy of Purgatory-it won’t make a “man” out of me — it will make me the child God wants me to be.