26 February 2011

Wonder at the gift that we are

7th Week OT (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatula

In his Book of Wisdom, Sirach writes, “[God's] majestic glory [our] eyes beheld, His glorious voice [our] ears heard. He says to [us], “Avoid all evil.” To help us avoid evil, God breathed into the dust from which He made us His own likeness and image. Each of us, therefore, is gifted with a wise and inventive heart; a conscience to distinguish good from evil; the discipline of understanding; knowledge of the Spirit; each of us is gifted with a sense of wonder and awe of the Lord so that we might glory in God's deeds and praise His holy name. He gives us a law of life, our inheritance, and a covenant that reveals His justice. All of these gifts, each one of these gifts, He breathes into our flesh and bones, bodies with “limited days of life,” and “all [our] actions are clear as the sun to him, his eyes are ever upon [our] ways.” And yet, despite these endowments and our grateful acceptance of them, and despite His vigilance over us, we still seek out evil and bargain with the Enemy. Jesus says to the disciples, “. . .whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Do we accept, as a child would, God's gifts of life, conscience, knowledge, wonder, and wisdom? If not, then we choose to bargain with the Enemy, an enemy who can sell us anything we desire. We can receive from God all we need for free, or we can buy all we want from the Enemy. . .at a price.

Children are brought to Jesus for his blessing. The disciples are offended by the presumption of the parents, so they rebuke the parents. Jesus hears the disciples' rebuke and becomes indignant. He, in turn, rebukes the disciples, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” We can take this to mean that Jesus recognizes that children are the future of the Kingdom. They will grow to adulthood with the knowledge and wisdom of God's coming reign. We can also take Jesus to mean that the Kingdom belongs to the children because only the child-like are able to enter the Kingdom, only those who accept God's gifts with child-like wonder and gratitude are properly suited for living under His rule. What is it about being child-like that eases one into the coming Kingdom? Is it innocence? A willingness to be obedient? Maybe it's the fact that a child is dependent on her parents for survival—humility. Being child-like includes all of these and more.

We might be tempted to romanticize childhood and then take that romantic vision and apply it to Jesus' teaching. Anyone with children can tell you that kids are hardly angels all the time. They have their moments of angel-like behavior, but they are capable of being little devils when they set their minds to it. We all have a story or two from our childhood that would likely frighten our parents to hear it told! Jesus is not romanticizing children. He's not telling us to imitate some sort of nostalgic vision of children as “perfect little angels.” The child-like quality that Jesus is lifting up is one that even we hardened adults can rediscover: wonder. Wonder at our creation. Wonder at growing in knowledge and wisdom. Wonder at coming to understand and be thankful for the gift of life itself. Children accept the wonder of the world without judgment or a need to explain. They accept their very existence as a freely given gift of just being here and being here b/c a loving Father willed it. Though they will likely not say so, they accept that their being here has a purpose, a cause and an end. If we will be child-like, we will accept and be thankful for the gifts that we ourselves are—we are gifts composed of gifts. We will set aside the desire to bargain for what we do not need and accept all that God wants for us. We are free to make deals with the Enemy. But we are freer when we simply say, “Thank you, Lord, for all You have given us!” This is the prayer that seals our inheritance as children of the Most High.

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