July 24, 2017
I am currently on vacation. In my absence, I will be re-posting popular blog posts from the past. This blog is now in it’s fifth year! The posts I’ll be sharing with you while I am away come from my first year of writing daily on the From The Deacon’s Desk site.
The following homily was delivered at a school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School, Indianapolis. It was our Freshmen Grandparents’ Mass, so over 150 grandparents of our freshmen students joined us for the Mass, followed by a reception.
In the first reading from the Book of Exodus, we heard about guardian angels: “I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.”
And from Matthew’s Gospel: “…unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
These are the readings for the day. What great readings to share with all of you at our Freshmen Grandparents’ Mass, with the guardian angels – the grandparents – and the ‘little children’ – all of us.
The role of grandparents is pretty clear. Their job is to give their grandkids candy, take them to McDonald’s or out to get ice cream, and bake cookies with them; and of course to love, hug, and console them.
Parents love their children, but they also have the job of setting rules, and providing structure and discipline. They handle all of the day-to-day duties of parenting, which frees up grandparents to focus on loving and spoiling their grandkids.
I’m not sure I really understood that until we had grandkids of our own.
The first thought Carol and I had when we learned that we were going to be grandparents was, “I wonder what our grandchildren will call us.”
Will we be Grandma and Grandpa, Granny and Grandad, Gam-Gam and Pop-Pop?
Joseph, our 4-year-old grandson, opted for the traditional Grandma and Grandpa. Our 8-month-old grandson, Abram, is too young to call us anything yet. He just smiles at us and drools.
Ellie, our 1-1/2 year-old granddaughter, is another story. She calls Carol “Grandma.”
As for me, she calls me “Bubbles.” That’s right, “Bubbles.”
There are not too many people that can get away with calling me “Bubbles.” One of Ellie’s favorite things to do is go out on our deck and blow bubbles. Every time she comes over, we do that together – she wants to do it, and it is my job to give her whatever she wants. When she calls me “Bubbles,” I am being connected with one of her favorite things in the world, so it is OK with me. It is part of her childlike joy and excitement that makes her so fun to be around.
Jesus was drawn to children as well. Today’s Gospel is not the only time that Jesus points out the virtues of being a child. Several times He said, “You must be childlike to enter the Kingdom of God” and “Let the children come to me.”
Little children fuss, wet their pants, and can be pretty needy. So what is it about children that Jesus wants us to imitate? What is it about being childlike that could help us enter into the Kingdom of God?
Three things jump out to me: First, little children exude joy, excitement, and enthusiasm. They see everything with wide-eyed wonder; everything is new and exciting. There is no such thing as “glass half-full” with young children – the glass is always overflowing.
That’s what Jesus wants of us. What if we approached Jesus and our faith with that type of joy and wonder?
Second, young children don’t take things for granted; they appreciate what they have. Give a child a present, and they will play with the wrapping paper and box for hours. Things don’t get old for them. They can do the same thing over and over again and they approach it each time with the same joy. Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a child just once?
As we grow older, we tend to take things for granted. We lose sight of the many blessings in our lives. We often operate with a “What have you done for me lately?” attitude. Mass and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, become habits, things to check off the to-do list. Jesus wants us to appreciate all we have and approach the Eucharist with the wide-eyed wonder and awe of a child.
Third, children love unconditionally and without judgment. They just do. Have you ever seen a two-year-old hold a grudge?
That’s what Jesus was talking about. That’s why He wants us to be like little children. Those are the qualities that will allow us to grow closer to Him.
It our job to capture that childlike spirit, nurture it and allow it to grow strong in our hearts.
Grandparents have the additional job of fostering that childlike spirit in their grandchildren. They are the guardian angels of their grandchildren. Grandparents have that perspective already. We will do anything to inspire that joy and wonder in our grandchildren.
That’s why I’m OK with Ellie, and only Ellie, calling me “Bubbles.”