Our grandchild was over for the night and she brought her dolls with her. We had no daughter so It was interesting for me to watch from a distance to see how she was caught up in the moment, a fantasy that was transformed into a reality that quickly absorbed all her senses. Before discounting this as childish behavior consider daydreamers such as C.S. Lewis who authored the Chronicles of Narnia or A.A. Milne who created Winnie the Pooh. Our best is found from ‘Soul Searching,’ accessing our inner selves for inspiration and where ultimately we find God, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit. It is where we hear the whispered voice of God.
At the entrance of our Parish church there is a bronze statue of Jesus sitting on a rock, with outstretched arms. It is often the focal point for children, who love to climb all over the statue, much to the consternation of their parents, who naturally view the statue with reverence. If the scene were real we could picture Jesus taking enormous delight in playing with the children, a welcome break in his otherwise demanding mission.
There is a constant theme of children in the life of Jesus, who came to us as a helpless child – our humble God – totally dependent upon a peasant teenage mother. The message is one of total humility, with one aim in mind – to break into and live in our hearts. What pride we have, for over two thousand years, to side-step this message.
What makes it so important for our God to completely humble himself before us?
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said. “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said. “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” “And whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”(Matthew 18:1)
In Mark 9:37 he continues and says. “And whoever receives Me, does not receive me, but Him who sent me.”
These are powerful words that seem out of reach. How can we possibly disregard all those adult, secular props that keep us members of society and become like children?
What makes a mere child so worthy to be the greatest in the kingdom? Are not we who attend Masses and retreats, say our prayers and receive the sacraments worthy?
What are the characteristics of a child that makes this so important to Jesus? Love, trust, hope, innocence, purity, and in those days, obedience (Luke 2:51). Such attributes allow a child to live in security, free of stress and able to pursue their own thoughts and dreams.
Living in the womb was probably the most pleasant experience of our lives, except we do not remember it. For many of us the ideal experience was childhood. For the price of obedience, we could live a carefree experience, with everything found in an environment of love. Jesus is telling us that we ought to to re-live that state. “Forget about becoming great in the World, put me first, for your very life (eternal life) depends upon it.”
In John 6:60-69 Jesus stresses the point to such a degree that even the disciples are on the brink of revolt. “Who can accept this?” But Jesus elaborates, “Does this offend you?” “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”
Society has become transfixed upon the very thing that denies us the truth. We go to the movies or a show or read a book and become engrossed in a plot that places us elsewhere — on a battlefield, or emotionally involved in a romantic affair. The bombs burst and the music plays and we become absorbed.
But it is fiction, a fantasy, a distraction, something that is merely consuming our emotions while we ignore what is real. Jesus asks, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
How do we bridge that gap? How do we get to say what Peter knows — “you are the Holy one of God”? What enables us to step off that cliff?
It is by being like a child and putting our absolute trust in God that He will catch us. It can happen through the Grace of God all of a sudden, but for most of us we reach a place, where we are alone. Where everything and everyone has departed, and there is nowhere else to turn. We fall on our knees and beg God to relieve the stress or to take the pain away.
As in so many situations in life there is another way – The Way. We know that there is nothing else that truly satisfies. An apt metaphor in this case is ‘baby steps’.
Bit by bit we can change our habits, turn off the TV, put the iPhone away, begin to attend Mass, start reading scripture, spend some quiet time with God, reconcile ourselves to Him, thank Him for all our gifts. Then, quite unexpectedly, we realize that he is listening, and there will come a change.
Remember the first thing that Jesus said when he walked into the room “Peace be with you; My Peace I give to you.”
Part of our human psyche causes us to judge others as we judge ourselves. It is a learned experience that we use to compete with others, or to convince ourselves that our enemy is evil. For countless generations Christianity has caused our hearts to compare a God that is both loving and judgmental, merciful and vengeful. Our most generous view is usually a God of rules and consequences. Catholicism is well known as the religion of no.
How can we expect to feel comfortable around our God? The truth is vastly different and we are capable of understanding God for who he is.
Consider the role of a parent and a child. There is no question that in a well regulated family the parent loves the child more than life itself. The great divide is that the parent is older and wiser, while the child is aggressive to grow up. The parent seeks to shield the child from danger, to which the child is oblivious. Having warned of the danger more than once the parent can become legitimately exasperated, but that does not lessen the love for the child.
How many of us stubborn children have had to wait until we are parents ourselves to understand the Love of a parent. How many times should we multiply that love to explain the Love of God – infinitely.
Take a moment to understand the personality of our God. He came to us as a baby and grew up to be our Teacher, a vocation of Love for all his children. He was a man of action, bringing peace in a troubled and stressful world. He hurt none and healed all who believed in him. He made lifelong friends, many of whom were willing to die for him.
Listen to the words that his son uses to describe his Father: He knows our every need (Mat 6:8); He teaches us how to converse with Him (Mat 6:9); He wants to care for us (Mat 6:26 and 10:29); Care for us with a loving hand (Mat 11:29); He wants to smother us with gifts (Mat 7:11); He wants us to be family (Mat12:50); Inheritors of His Kingdom (Luke 12:32).
Many times when asked, God changed his mind, which is his true measure of mercy. The correct translation of seventy times seven is infinite, since seven is the number of perfection. There is one time when God changes his mind on his own. It is when he sends his Angel to hold the hand of Abraham from killing his son – He could not ask his friend to do such a deed and yet he does not stop the execution of his own Son. We have to ask ourselves what kind of God is this. A God that wants us to call Him Father.
The beauty of God’s plan stretches back to before the creation of time. It has been constant through the ages, yet we still have difficulty in understanding it’s simplicity. We have been given all the tools to change the world, to steal it from Satan, to create heaven on Earth by living God’s commandments and loving Him first and all others before ourselves. For this he rewards us with eternal life in the peace and joy of his presence.
Our God can’t wait for us to reach Heaven, and will not leave us to our own devices, for he is with us every step of the way.
Reflect upon the long and intimate lineage of the Eucharist. The purity of unleavened bread; Manna in the desert (Exodus 16); Manna to be kept as a witness to the saving love of God (Exodus 33); Showbread the ‘Bread of the Presence’ (Exodus 25:30). The Last Supper (Mat 26) was not a reenactment of the Passover, it was the precursor of a new beginning. Jesus was preparing us to receive a new bread. He gave us himself.
God gives himself to us, as often as we want – to be part of us all the time. He is reluctant to let go of the back of the bicycle seat. What kind of a Father is that? Jesus is certainly not a fantasy so why not lose our inhibitions and with childlike innocence learn to Love, Trust and yes obey this God who wants us to call Him Daddy.