Saturday of Week 7 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Mark 10:13-16

The Gospel begins with the line:

People were bringing children to [Jesus] in order that he might touch them…

It is so sad that this act of ‘touching’ has lost any connotation of innocence in our present day.  A compassionate and healing touch is something for which children, the sick and, at times all of us have a great need.

His disciples felt that Jesus, who may have been in the process of teaching, was being bothered by these mothers and tried to drive them away.  More than once we have seen the officiousness of the disciples who were taking to themselves an authority that not been given them.  They still had to learn the lesson that authority serves rather than controls and manipulates. It is a lesson that those in authority in our Church today need also to remember.  And it reflects to some extent the low place that children had in adult society, to be neither seen nor heard.

Mark, who likes to record the feelings of Jesus, says that he was quite indignant at his disciples’ behaviour, saying:

Let the children come to me; do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

“Children” here can be taken here in a wider sense to include all those who approach Jesus with a completely open, unprejudiced mind. And also those who have a low status in our society.  Such people are often more ready to hear the message of the Kingdom and to take an active part in it.

So Jesus says:

Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.

Only those with the openness and simplicity of a child will be able to enter the Kingdom.  These words were, no doubt, addressed to all-knowing scribes and Pharisees and their like, and also to the disciples.

Jesus then took the children, put his arms around them, laid his hands on them and blessed them.  Jesus knew the importance of physical touch in communicating with people, in expressing encouragement, affirmation and bringing healing.

This passage can be linked, in a way, with the recent one on scandal (Mark 9:41-50).  The disciples, perhaps not deliberately, were blocking access to Jesus by those who were most open to his teaching.  As people who are responsible for children, either as parents or teachers or whatever, we need to be aware of how by word or action we can block our children being exposed to the Jesus’ message of Truth and Love.  But we can also be a block to other people who can be influenced and turned away from the Way of Christ by our unchristian way of behaving.

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