"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me." This statement from Jesus is actually very similar to the famous passage from Matthew's Gospel where he says, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (25:40). But in Matthew, this idea of serving Jesus by serving others is applied to more dramatic cases: the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, the naked and the stranger. Isn't it interesting to note that caring for children can also be a way of experiencing Christ's presence among us?
The word "catechesis" means "to echo." Literally, we are to echo the good news of Jesus Christ to the world, especially children. This is not a suggestion; it is a command of our Lord. Some people are called and set apart in our communities as catechists, those formally trained and charged with passing on the Gospel to children and adults, inside and outside of our communities. On Catechetical Sunday, we acknowledge them and remind ourselves of the need for formation and growth in all of us. To be a catechist is a privileged calling, and today be sure to say "thank you" to one in your community.
Because dealing with children can become routine, or at times even be filled with challenges and frustrations, we might need to pause to remind ourselves about the blessings that they bring. Certainly their joy and innocence is a gift in itself, but in today's Gospel we are reminded that their presence brings more than that. When we serve children in a spirit of generosity, when we "receive" them as they are with all that entails, we are in turn receiving Jesus ... who first came to us as a child.