“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
Before I became Catholic, I was a United Methodist pastor in a small town south of Anchorage, Alaska in the 1990’s. Our church was one small room with no bathrooms. The “cry room” was outside and that was only an option during the warmer seasons (about 3 months).
We had a congregation of mostly young families, including my own, and the church was generally packed with infants, toddlers, and younger children – always filled with joyful noise!
I frequently reminded the young families not to worry if the children made noise because that’s what they do. If they were loud during my homily, so be it, I’m just glad they were there.
The other day Pope Francis reiterated something he had said earlier in his pontificate:
“Babies cry, make noise, go here and there. But it annoys me when a baby cries in church and there are those who say he needs to go out. The cry of a baby is God’s voice: never drive them away from the church!”
Today is our last Sunday of hopeful expectation of the arrival of a newborn. Last night at Mass, as our priest held up the host and said, “This is my Body, which will be given up for you,” a toddler, at the top of his lungs, yells, “YAY!”
“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” – Luke 1:44
The grins and giggles were abundant, but it was a moment of grace that we would not have experienced if that child were not with us. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone at Mass had that feeling and impulse at the moment when Jesus shows up?
I get that it can be frustrating when you are trying to listen to a homily or pray and an infant is crying at the top of his lungs. I’ve felt it myself. But no matter what a parent chooses to do in those situations, it is of no benefit to be annoyed or to even say something. Should we not turn those negative feelings into rejoicing that a child is with us?
Indeed, this season is about welcoming a child into our world: One who will bring glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, recover sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.