Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
Read Chapter 19
George Leo Haydock
That he should lay his hands upon them. It was the custom to present children to men reputed holy, as it is now the custom for bishops and priests to pray and give a blessing to others. (Witham)
It was customary with the Jews to present their children to the elders, that they might receive their blessing; hence they present them on this occasion to our Lord. (St. Remigius)
And the disciples rebuked them, not because they were unwilling that the children should be blessed by the hands of our Saviour, but as they were yet weak in faith, they thought that, like other men, he would be teased by the importunity of the offerers. (St. Jerome)
The people thought that the same hands, which could restore instantaneous health to the sick, must necessarily impart every good to such children as they should touch. The disciples thought they made too free with their Master, requesting what, in their ideas, was beneath his dignity. (Haydock)
The children prefigure the Gentiles, to whom salvation is given through faith and the simple word. But since the goal was first to save Israel, they were at first prevented by the disciples from approaching. The action of the apostles is not about their personal desires but rather their serving as a type or prefiguring of the future proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles. The Lord says that the children should not be prevented because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”; for the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit was going to be bestowed on the Gentiles by the laying on of hands, when the work of the law ceased.
And wherefore did the disciples repel the little children? For dignity. What then does He? Teaching them to be lowly, and to trample under foot worldly pride, He does receive them, and takes them in His arms, and to such as them promises the kingdom; which kind of thing He said before also. Matthew 18:3-4
Let us also then, if we would be inheritors of the Heavens, possess ourselves of this virtue with much diligence. For this is the limit of true wisdom; to be simple with understanding; this is angelic life; yes, for the soul of a little child is pure from all the passions. Towards them who have vexed him he bears no resentment, but goes to them as to friends, as if nothing had been done; and how much soever he be beaten by his mother; after her he seeks, and her does he prefer to all. Though thou show him the queen with a diadem, he prefers her not to his mother clad in rags, but would choose rather to see her in these, than the queen in splendor. For he uses to distinguish what pe...