Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
One of the things many Evangelicals like me found difficult is the Catholic habit of showing Jesus as a baby in the arms of Mary. "Jesus is not a baby anymore," goes the complaint. "It was a man, not a child, who died upon the Cross."
True enough. And if the baby imagery leads us to mere sentimentality about the "little Lord Jesus" and not to a mature adult relationship with Jesus, it's a bad thing. But at the same time, there is a reason Scripture itself presents us with pictures of Jesus as an infant and child. For it's "the whole Jesus" — Jesus the baby, Jesus the young boy and Jesus the man — not just Jesus on the Cross, Who is our Savior. Jesus, even as an infant, is doing the work of salvation by entering into the whole of human experience. Part of our human experience is that of infancy and childhood, so God joins himself fully with that.
That's why meditation on and even prayer to the Child Christ is alright, just as meditation and prayer to Jesus as Teacher, or Healer, or Prophet are all good, too. Christ is more than just a figure on a Cross. His revelation is bigger than a six-hour space of time on a Friday afternoon. His whole life is revelatory, including his childhood. After all, it was the child, not the man, who prompted His greatest disciple to "keep all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). For he was doing in his childhood what he was always doing: being about his Father's business.