In his visit to a children’s hospital in Paraguay Saturday, Pope Francis told the young patients that Jesus loved children, enjoyed spending time with them, and wanted to be their friends. He also said Jesus put them forward as a model for adults.
Jesus “didn’t just want to have them around,” Francis said. “He wanted them to be an example. He told his disciples that ‘unless you become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
While the adults kept pushing the children away, Jesus “brought them forward, so that people could learn to be like them,” he said.
“We need to learn from you. We need to learn from your trust, your joy, and your tenderness. We need to learn from your ability to fight, from your strength, from your remarkable endurance,” he told them.
Remarking on their combat against illness, the Pope encouraged them to battle on. “Some of you are fighters. And when we look at young ‘warriors’ like you, we feel very proud,” he said. “Looking at you gives us strength, it gives us the courage to trust, to keep moving forward.”
Francis said that the only time in Saint Mark’s Gospel when Jesus is described as being “annoyed” was when they wouldn’t let the children come to him. “We would say that he was really ‘ticked off,’” Francis added.
“Jesus felt that way when they wouldn’t let the children come to him. He was really mad. He loved children. Not that he didn’t like adults, but he was really happy to be with children,” he said.
The Pope also addressed the parents and grandparents of the hospitalized children, acknowledging their “great suffering and uncertainty” but reminding them that “Jesus is close to his children.”
“Never hesitate to pray to him, to talk to him, to share with him your questions and your pain. He is always with us, he is ever near and he will not let us fall,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome