Years ago, I was praying in a chapel with some dear friends. One of them had never been in the chapel before. He held his rosary tightly, smiled angelically, and prayed rather more loudly than the rest of us – in language that must have been clearer and more beautiful to Heaven than the muted murmurs of the women.
When we were about halfway through our rosary, it seemed that he grew restless – which is natural, given that he was 3 years old. So, we weren’t too surprised when our young friend clambered over his mother’s kneeling legs, but we were amazed when he quietly approached the altar of the Word of God. He seemed to gaze at it with purpose, then touched the Good Book reverently. He then turned and came back to his mother to touch her forehead as if bestowing a gift. Then, grinning, he went pattering over to the tabernacle housing the living Body of Christ, touched it gently, and came back to his mother’s forehead again. Wow. Next, he went back to the Word, reached out toward its glory again, and then brought it back to his mother – this time, right to her heart.
What a priceless, breath-stealing moment. Could that little boy explain his faith to us in words? Absolutely not. Does he fully possess it? Definitely. How does it compare to our own faith? Hmm, perhaps we’d rather not say right now. So, what’s the difference between us and him, besides our height and cuteness? What has changed inside us as we have grown?
I believe one critical, regrettable change that happens to so many of us as we age is in the increase of our unwillingness to freely accept gifts. Children are natural receivers; it’s how they survive. They are blissfully dependent – and even expectant – as all their physical and emotional needs are met by their caretakers. Children rarely give back in equal measure, and they may not be able to thank their caregivers enough, but their cheerful acceptance and practical use of the goods and services supplied is deeply satisfactory to the providers. It’s a healthy, happy, and holy system.
Sadly, though, as we mature, we are so much more likely to let our independence and pride block ANY donations, assistance, or even grace. Consider: how often do we mentally applaud those who say, “I don’t take charity!” or, “Oh, that’s OK, I’ve got it under control.” Our society rewards and reinforces such a mindset. But let’s remember Who does not.
The Lord Himself tells us in Luke 18:17, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” God wants us to put aside our pride and stubborn self-reliance. He wants us, instead, to have faith. He wants us, too, to take courage – as it says in today’s gospel – from Him. He doesn’t want us to squinch up our eyes and think it through, or to build it out of blueprints and money. He’s not asking us to look it up, write it down, or recite it from memory. He doesn’t even want us to find it somewhere deep inside and hold it up to the light. No, He wants us simply to accept it, as a gift from Him. “Have faith, Child. Here, take courage. It’s yours. Use it well. Enjoy.”