Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13, 30-32
Psalm 51:12-15, 18-19
When a child was considered property of their parents, it made sense that their parents would be punished with the death of the child. God is saying that each child is a person with their own dignity, their own responsibility. In the Gospel, the Apostles try to prevent the people from bring their children to Jesus. They consider Jesus too important to waste his time blessing children. He has sermons to give and people to heal. Jesus goes further than the prophecy of Ezekiel: He declares that children not only have an equal dignity to adults, but they are greater inasmuch as they are models for us. This sets the way of the world completely on its head. Jesus does that all the time: “Blessed are the poor.” “Love your enemy.” And now, “learn from children.”
What can we learn from a child who comes into this world knowing nothing? We can teach children math, reading, history, and every other human science. What could they possibly teach us except what we have taught them? But the Kingdom of heaven belongs to children, and we want it for ourselves too so we must learn a kind of wisdom from children.
A child is a person who literally has nothing. They have no possessions, no strength, no education. They depend on adults for everything. When we look at a child we should see someone loved so much by God, someone full of potential, someone whom we want to help in any way that we can. So we can learn from children about human dignity that is not dependent on any accomplishment or usefulness. Then, when we look at other people, we should see them the same way, without being blinded by whatever their years on earth have done; we should see the beloved child, the human dignity that is ours, unearned but unlosable.
To see that human dignity in ourself and in every person is to begin to love everyone. When we look at someone and do not think about how we can use them or even whether they impress us, we are acknowledging that there is something precious in them and in every human being. What is most precious in us is what we share in common with the version of ourself from however many years ago when we were a little child, or even from before we were born.