The Gospel for Easter this year reminds me of little children. Mary of Magdala runs from the tomb when she sees it has been opened. Then Peter and the other disciple race each other to the tomb. The other one wins the race but Peter goes in first (John 20:1–5). I can picture the disciple stopping suddenly and Peter running into him, tripping and ending up in the tomb. But putting slapstick aside, there is another way they are like children.
Remember the Gospel about St. Thomas, who would not believe Jesus’ resurrection until he could see him? Compare that to the disciple in today’s reading, who “saw [the empty tomb] and believed” (John 20:9). That is real faith. For all he knew, someone could have taken Jesus’ body and left the cloths behind. But he must have remembered Jesus saying that he would rise again. That is the kind of faith we find in a little child.
Children will believe in things they cannot see, especially if there is a good reason. We “bribe” them into believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy by giving them Christmas presents or money under the pillow. They will also believe in Someone real who they cannot see. If we teach them that God made them and loves them, if we love them ourselves and teach them to love others, they will have good reasons to believe in God. As they get older, we can teach them how to pray, save money for the poor, visit the sick, or volunteer to help the homeless. We can reinforce what they learn in religion class and encourage them as they prepare for First Communion or confirmation.
Jesus didn’t say that only children could enter the Kingdom. He said we must become like children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). What he means is that not only can we help teach children how to have faith, we can also learn from them about faith. Becoming like children does not mean being selfish or stubborn, throwing tantrums when we don’t get our way. Those are childish behaviors that we put aside. Instead, we can keep a child-like faith and trust in God. Teaching them about God is a great way to help our own faith to grow. By giving them real examples of God’s love for them, they will continue to believe long after they have given up the fairy tales of childhood.