August 18, 2018
by Kyle Lierk
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 418

Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32
Psalms 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
Matthew 19:13-15
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

Sitting at the dinner table under a dogwood tree in the cool shade of a balmy Oregon evening, I am basking in the warm light of love encircling this shady space.  My dear friend, Matt, is engaging in a lively quiz game with his son, Jack (my godson), while four year-old Brigid languidly lounges in the lap of her mother, Melissa.  To put my relationship with Matt and his family in context, he is the one who stood by my side as my best man while I spoke the eternal words “I do” to my wife on our wedding day.  During his toast at the reception to follow, Matt addressed me as his “brother from another mother.”  Suffice it to say, we are close.

We are enjoying the refreshing feeling of icy all-natural popsicles on our tongues as the sun’s heat slowly loses its intensity.  At this moment, I am reminded of the day I had the unique opportunity to hear the Irish poet and modern-day mystic John O’Donohue speak.  He was describing, with unabashed wonder, what it must have been like to spend a day in the home of Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus.  O’Donohue said something like this:  “Can you imagine the power that you would have felt in that space?!  These parents found the unique ability to love their child in such a way that he was free to grow and discover his true identity as the Son of God ... wow!”  

Perhaps Jesus was reflecting on the importance of the love and support he received in his early days with his parents when he spoke the words we hear in today’s Gospel acclamation and Gospel reading, both from Matthew:  “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom” (MT 11:25) and “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (MT 19:14).  It is safe to say that Jesus not only enjoyed surrounding himself with the spirited energy of youth, but he directed the attention of those following him to look upon children as models to follow on our pilgrimage toward God.  As I reflected upon these words in the midst of my friend Matt’s family, I heard a deeper invitation from Jesus through Jack and Brigid - an invitation toward curiosity and freedom.

My first day in Oregon, Jack was headed to skateboarding camp for the morning.  Upon rising, his first move was to get on his parent’s smartphone and check the weather forecast.  I have yet to meet a fourth-grader who has the wherewithal to even consider how the movements of Mother Nature might affect their day!  That evening, after helping his father grill dinner he listened quietly to his parents and I speaking for an hour before asking an astute and relevant question on some content we covered in the early minutes of the conversation.  Jack’s curiosity was palpable.  Do I bring that same playful inquisitiveness to my spiritual life?  How might I foster a bit more wonder in my relationship with Jesus?  Perhaps the words of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke can serve as a mantra:  “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves...Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Back at the dinner table, while Jack is working with his father who is holding the box from which our dessert came, to try and guess their ingredients, his sister Brigid is periodically proclaiming the new object she sees in the shape of her disappearing popsicle.  “It’s a rocket’s a’s a flower!”  The freedom of her imagination left my cheeks sore from smiling.  The next day, as I rode in the backseat with her on the drive to her school, she was holding a pinecone.  Well, I saw it as a pinecone, but to Brigid it was a microphone and she was singing an improvisational song about going to school.  She soon held the pinecone microphone up to my mouth and invited me to make it a duet with her.  I thought to myself, “When was the last time in my anxiety-ridden adult life that I felt so free of judgement (my own or others) that I was able to sing a made-up song into an object I found in nature?”  St. Ignatius of Loyola spoke often about freedom in the spiritual life.  Jacqueline Bergan and Sr. Marie Schwan paraphrase the opening of Ignatius’ “First Principle and Foundation” from the Spiritual Exercises to say, “Lord, my God, when your love spilled over into creation You thought of me.  I am from Love, of Love, for Love.”  Now if that is enough to fuel my desire for freedom, I don’t know what is!

Today, as I reflect on Jesus’ words and actions with “little ones,” I pray for deeper compassion and wisdom with how we treat children in our world.  Children who are suffering at the hands of governments along borders, the hands of militias in various countries and even the hands of our own Church.  Inspired by the words of Jesus, may we all listen more attentively to the mysteries of the Kingdom of God revealed through children - mysteries of curiosity and freedom and so much more.  Inspired by the actions of Jesus, may we all place hands of blessing on our children “for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

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