Homily: The Exuberance of a Child

April 21, 2017 – Friday in the Octave of Easter

Homily originally delivered in April 2013 at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, IN

Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. (John 21:1-14)

Homily theme: The resurrected Jesus calls his Apostles “children.” This reminds us of our need to embrace our faith with the joy and exuberance of a child. We are Jesus’ children. He has His arms opened wide and invites us to run to Him.

I am confident that Fr. Jim has never begun one of his homilies with this line: Let’s talk about potty training.

Our first child went through potty training by the book. She did everything just the way she was supposed to, and it was over and done with quickly and easily with no looking back.

It was a much longer, more difficult path with young Rick. He seemed to understand the concept of going to the bathroom on his own. He knew where the bathroom was. He liked his little step stool he got to stand on.

He had difficulty with two parts of the process: First, for whatever reason, he took off all of his clothes to go to the bathroom. I don’t know what else to say about that…that’s just what he did. If we were good parents, we probably would have tried to break him of that habit, but it was just too funny to watch.

Second, he had trouble with timing. The time between the urge to go and actually going was pretty short. He was an energetic kid with lots to do, so he usually waited too long to head toward the bathroom, and when you add the time it took for him to take off all of his clothes, he had many accidents. So it was a long, slow, process.

He went from going to the bathroom in his pants, to going to the bathroom as he was getting undressed, to being naked and going to the bathroom in the hallway, then at the entrance to the bathroom, then on the bathroom floor, and so on. He kept getting closer, but he would be so excited about getting closer, that the excitement would cause him to go. The process took so long with Rick that Carol and I had a little problem maintaining enthusiasm. The happy potty dances, and applauding, and cheering him on began to wane.

But one day it happened. I was watching football on a Sunday afternoon and Rick came running into the room, naked of course. “Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom!”

I said, “That’s great, Ricky, you better get in there.” And he took off to the bathroom.

Seconds later, he came running back out. “Daddy, I really have to go!”

“OK, buddy, run to the bathroom!” And he did. Then I heard footsteps running back toward me. This time I was expecting him tell me that he hadn’t quite made it, and to let me know what area of the house I needed to clean up. But he came running back into the room, now hopping up and down with excitement.

“Daddy, I really do have to go potty!”

Just as I was about to encourage him once again to head to the bathroom, he grabbed my hand and said, “C’mon, I want you to watch!”

As if that wasn’t cute enough, he added, “You’re my best friend!”

That day, with his best friend cheering him on, he made it.

Cute kid story number two: When the kids were little, I made a big production out of coming home from work. I would make a lot of noise, and take a long time working the key in the lock to build excitement. Carol would say to whichever kids were around, “I think I hear Daddy!”

So when I got in the door, somewhere between one and four kids would be lined up. I would kneel down, extend my arms wide, and yell, “Buddy!” and the kids would run or crawl toward me and jump into my arms. They would knock me over and roll around on the floor with me. And, of course, because they were little kids, they would say, “Do it again, Daddy!” and we would have to repeat this dramatic entrance two or three more times.

I shared these stories with you because I would like you to spend some time thinking like a child or remembering what it’s like to be a child. Think about how as children we were so excited about life and saw each day as a new adventure. Think about how as children we were so accepting of others and so quick to forgive and forget. Think about how as children we were genuine, and loving, and pure.

I have heard this Gospel reading many times over the years. When I read it in preparation for this weekend’s homily, I noticed something I had never noticed before. I normally get caught up in the nets bulging with 153 large fish.

When Jesus appears on the shore, he calls out to the Apostles, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” That’s odd. He called them “Children.

Then, when Peter realized the man on the shore was Jesus, this grown man “jumped into the sea” and headed toward Him. Even though the boat was almost to shore and would arrive minutes later.

Jesus is home from work and is yelling, “Buddy!” and Peter is running to jump into his arms. For some, this may conjure up an odd visual, perhaps even an uncomfortable image.

But it shouldn’t be. Many times Jesus spoke about our need to be like children:

Matthew 18:3 — Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:14 — Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Luke 18:17 — Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.

Jesus is telling us that we need to embrace our faith with childlike exuberance – the same exuberance little children show in embracing the people and the moments of their lives.

The resurrected Jesus stood on the shore and called out to the Apostles, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” By saying, “Children,” He is reminding each of the Apostles about the need to become like a little child. Peter, called to be the Rock of our Church, and who was believed to be the oldest of the Apostles, sets the example with his childlike response to Jesus’ call by jumping into the water and running to Him.

This Gospel certainly speaks to what the Easter season is all about. We view Lent as a penitential season. We put ashes on our foreheads to signify our understood brokenness. We fast. We sacrifice. We emphasize the sacrament of Reconciliation.

But with Easter we celebrate 50 days of joy and exuberance. Christ died for our sins to bring us to new life, and then rose from the dead and is with us everyday. Through Easter renewal of baptismal vows we are reborn as children -His children. Jesus has his arms extended and invites us to run to Him. He wants to be our best friend. He wants us to jump up and down with excitement and take His hand. He wants to be invited to come with us and be a part of what we are doing. He wants to be invited to share in our lives, to comfort us in our sorrow, and to share in our joy.

He wants to be there to congratulate us on our accomplishments: whether that is running our first marathon, getting out of our comfort zone by serving the poor, or doing something as simple as going to the bathroom on our own for the first time.

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