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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

General Audience: Children, Gift to Humanity, Remind Us that We Need Help, Love, and Forgiveness

Vatican City, 18 March, 2015 (VIS) – Having examined the various members of family life—mothers, fathers, children, siblings, grandparents—the Pope concluded this first section of catechesis on the family by talking about children. Today he focused on what a great gift children are for humanity, and next week he will speak about wounds that damage childhood.
Interrupted by the applause of the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he affirmed that “children are a gift to humanity”, Pope Francis thanked them and exclaimed: “but they are also a greatly excluded one because they are even not allowed to be born…a society can be judged, not only morally but also sociologically, on how it treats its children, if it is a free society or a slave society of international interests.”
Then, continuing with his catechesis he explained that “firstly, children remind us that we all, in the first years of life, are totally dependent on the care and kindness of others. The Son of God,” he emphasized, “was not spared this step. This is the mystery that we contemplate every year at Christmastime. The manger scene is the icon that communicates this reality in the most simple and direct way.”
God,” he continued, “has no difficulty in being understood by children and children have no trouble in understanding God. It isn’t by chance that in the Gospels Jesus speaks beautiful and strong words about the ‘little ones’. This term indicates all persons who depend on the help of others, particularly children. …Children, therefore, are a treasure for humanity and also for the Church because they constantly remind us of the necessary condition for entering into the Kingdom of God: that we must not consider ourselves self-sufficient, but in need of help, of love, and of forgiveness.”
Children also remind us that we are always children even when we become adults or if we become parents; beneath it all we keep our identity as a child. “And this always leads us back to the fact that we are not given life, but that we have received it,” the Pope reminded. “The great gift of life is the first gift we have received. Sometimes we risk forgetting about this, as if we were the masters of our existence while instead we are radically dependent. In fact, it is a source of great joy to hear that at every age in life, in every situation, in every social condition, we are and remain sons and daughters. This is the main message that children give us with their presence: with just their presence they remind us that each and every one of us is a child.”
Listing some of the other gifts that children bring to humanity the Pope highlighted their way of seeing reality, “with a confident and pure gaze. Children have a spontaneous trust in mom and dad and they have a spontaneous trust in God, in Jesus, and in the Madonna. At the same time, their inner gaze is pure, not yet tainted by malice, duplicity, and the ‘incrustation’ of life that harden one’s heart. We know that even children have original sin, that they can be selfish, but they retain a purity and an inner simplicity. Children are not diplomats: they say what they feel, they say what they see, directly. And many times they make parents uncomfortable, saying in front of other people: ‘I don’t like this because it’s ugly.’ But children say what they see. They aren’t split persons; they still haven’t learned that science of duplicity that we adults have unfortunately learned.”
Children also bring with them ability to receive and to give affection. “Tenderness is having a heart ‘of flesh’ and not ‘of stone’, as the Bible says,” Pope Francis noted. “Tenderness is also poetry. It is ‘feeling’ things and events, not treating them as mere objects only to use them because they they’re useful.”
The ability to smile and to cry is another gift that children bring, one which “we grown-ups often ‘block out’… Many times our smile becomes a cardboard one, something lifeless and cold or even an artificial, clown’s smile. Children smile and cry spontaneously. It always comes from the heart, and often our hearts are closed and we lose this ability to smile and to cry. Children, then, can teach us how to smile and how to cry again. … This is why Jesus invites his disciples to ‘become like children’ because ‘the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’.”
Children bring life, joy, hope, even troubles. But life is like that. They certainly also bring worries and, at times, many problems. But a society with these worries and problems is a better one than a society that is sad and gray because it is childless! And when we see a society with a birthrate of just 1%,” he concluded, “we can say that that is a sad and gray society because it is without children.”
On greeting pilgrims from English-speaking countries, the Pope was warmly hailed by students from The Catholic University of America and Loyola University Maryland who are studying in Rome for the semester

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