I recently saw a comment to the effect that “it is amazing how Joseph learned from the baby Jesus.”
It occurs to me that this is a strange amazement in light of the belief that not only from birth, but from conception itself, there exists a human person, a soul specially and uniquely made in the image and likeness of God (though that Creation, of which we all receive, is a wonder of God). The Child Jesus is God as well as Human, but is not every human child a person, uniquely made in the image of God, a living soul, capable of all that which being a person entails – of knowledge, of choice, of love? Does this not mean that every child is a human being whom we might be able to learn from? I see two reasons to think this: one is that every human being is unique, which suggests that every human person would know or see something which no other human does alone; there is, of course, the difficulty with infants and children that communication is limited between us, but that difficulty would, no doubt, have existed between the Child Jesus and Mary His mother and Joseph his foster-father also, for He partook of our humanity is its fullness, the weakness and limitations and ignorances of an infant not excluding. There is another reason, also, one which Jesus Himself alluded to later in His life when He said that unless we become as little children we shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven: sin, imperfection, the weakness and disease of not living in union with and trust in God as our perfect and loving Father, taint all things in this world, but children, while they have not had the time and experience to learn some of what adults may know, have also not have the time and experience to unlearn or to learn falsehoods which some adults may “know.”
Throughout much of sin-tainted human society and culture this does not seem to be recognized, or is even outright rejected, and thus one of the things which may be amazing to some is this message in Christianity, which is in fact taught by the Incarnation: God became a Baby. This is utterly amazing, for God partook of all that truly being a baby entails. It also lets us know something: babies and children are not to be disregarded, and Jesus Himself taught this, and spoke of children and babies as having something which those who consider themselves wise or prudent lack: receptiveness to the Revelation of the Father, the Way of the Kingdom of Heaven. But this “wonder” that children may know something, or be receptive to something, and that adults can learn from children and must become as children in this way, should not be the greatest amazement, and it is certainly not amazing that Jesus’ mother and foster-father learned from Him, anymore than it is amazing that any human parent can learn from his or her child – though, doubtless, Jesus was a perfect child, and thus there may have been more for them to learn from Him, or it may have been easier, but that is the wonder of His perfect Humanity, not of the fact that children may be learned from.
Amazement at the fact that Jesus could teach His mother and Joseph is not the amazement of angels and saints before the mystery of the Incarnation, that God could become Man. It is the amazement of sinners that that which they have disdained as weak and ignorant might know or have something they have missed. It may be a step in the right direction, but it shows how far from what we ought to be we are; it is no sanctity or even sign thereof. It is the amazement of utter arrogance and pride just at that point where it meets just enough humility to admit the existence of a knowledge or power outside itself, but is still so much arrogance that this fact is amazing – still so much arrogance that it disdains as weak and ignorant that which it does not understand, instead of looking to learn, to grow.
Perhaps this may teach us that instead of being amazed that children may have something to teach us, it is time for us to look at everything we disdain (or even outright fail to notice – though this will be harder) with an eye for, “What can I learn?” (This is humility – not thinking over and over again, “I am the greatest sinner on earth.” That may be a beginning, but it is a beginning, not the goal.)
God has made us in His image, from birth and onwards. We do not begin our life in this world within the wombs of mothers and then grow through childhood for no reason. Childhood bears the image of God, and this is shown in the Word who became a child and has made Himself known to us as the Son of God.
Copyright 2021 Raina Nightingale