And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’
-Luke 18: 15-16
This Advent I am blessed once again to be able serve the Central American families traveling across borders looking for a better, safer life. It’s exhausting work. At Sacred Heart Parish we are still seeing between 60 (on a good day) to over 100 (on most days) refugees arrive on our border every day while the number of donations and volunteers has decreased since last I visited. The volunteers who are committed to the cause often begin at 8 am and will not go home until 9 at night. Amidst the chaos it has been the children God has used to remind me why I was there.
Today a family of three arrived with two little boys, one age three and one age four. The intake process can take a good while. Needless to say, the boys were not going to sit still so long. I’m not certain if he had brought it or conned it out of one of the female volunteers, but somehow the younger one had acquired a stuffed cow.
At least we thought it was a stuffed cow. The three- year- old boy from Central America looked at the roundish black and white toy and concluded it must be a soccer ball. It wasn’t long before he convinced one of the other sponsors she was in fact also a soccer player, and the rest of the volunteers had to accept that the Sacred Heart waiting area was in fact a soccer field.
Adults tear the world apart defending borders they have created to suit their own ends. Children bring the nations together in a kingdom all their own.
My first night Sacred Heart was so understaffed I was promoted to full family sponsor, a role usually reserved for fluent Spanish speakers. Sister Mary is fond of saying, “The heart can say a lot.” My family was typical of most of the guests of Sacred Heart–a poor young mother traveling with her seven- year- old daughter and her four- month- old daughter. Their possessions were few, and still they would have to throw away all the clothes they were wearing before they could continue to travel in our country. If the “heart” only had more words for women’s clothing sizes, it would have been handy.
But somehow I did manage to pick out appropriate replacement clothes for my family and escort them to the outdoor showers. But at the showers my family was greeted by quizzical looks by the senior volunteer. The shower czar exchanged some rapid Spanish with my family mother and then looked at me. The infant couldn’t go any further. Someone was going to have to hold him while the rest of the family showered.
The nice thing about infants is that you always have the same conversation no matter what language you speak. I rocked the child back and forth and promised her mommy would return soon. In the silence I found myself compelled to mindlessly hum “What child is this…”.
Advent isn’t just about the baby, or sometimes it’s all about the baby.
As the ACNM’s self- appointed social justice blogger, I always have to point out that in Advent we aren’t just waiting for, praying for, preparing for an historical child; we are preparing for the child’s kingdom. I believe the “Kingdom of God” symbolizes the better, more just world which all Christians should be striving for even if it only truly exists amongst our own hearts. The “Kingdom of God” is why I believe it is every Christian’s duty to advocate on issues like immigration, hunger, and abortion. Jesus gave his church a mandate, not just to do charity, but to build a better world.
But this Advent I realized sometimes the “Kingdom of God” is all about a baby. If and when this better world is built, it will belong to the children. Jesus has told us that. Most of our brothers and sisters who come to our border everyday are children. When our government sets up detention facilities like Karnes, specifically to incarcerate families, it is children that we hinder.
Cynics often gripe that we liberals use “think of the children” as an emotional manipulation tool. But there is a fine line between an emotionally objective outlook and simply being a sociopath. Objectively and unemotionally, we know that children are the most vulnerable members of our society. Rationally, we should understand that in order to promote justice among all citizens, special care must be paid to the most vulnerable citizens. So “thinking of the children” is only logical. If your emotional intuition confirms what is plainly true, that just proves you’re not completely insane (yet).
For Catholics in Advent I say, “think of your savior … think of the kingdom … think about what you really believe.” Because our savior was clear– His kingdom of God is for children only.
Truly I say to you, ‘whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’
– Luke 18:17
This advent if you really want to prepare for the kingdom of God, spend some time with its natural citizens. Embrace the profound joy of kicking around a stuffed cow. Remind yourself of the transcendent peace of dancing to and fro while holding someone you love and singing your favorite Christmas carol.
As a nation we must stop hindering these little ones. When we forget to welcome these children, we are securing the border between our nation and the kingdom of God. We our protecting our sovereignty from our morals and our Savior. So this advent I must challenge you to welcome the Children, the treasures of Christmas belong to them.
Special thanks to the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for all their great work coordinating the disaster relief efforts at Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen. They also provided all the pictures used in this post. CCRGV is right now in great need of volunteers and donations you can contact at http://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/