Homily: Embracing Childhood

April 25, 2021 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 4:8-12 / 1 John 3:1-2 / John 10:11-18

I will deliver the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:

Very rarely do I focus a Sunday homily on a single line of scripture. That said, today is one of those rare times.

In our second reading from the First Letter of John, we heard the following: We are God’s children; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

There is so much for us to unpack in this one line. As we unpack it, it will become clear that this passage has something to say to each of us and why the Church schedules this reading for the Easter season – a season of hope.

Over the past week, my homily wrote itself as I was reminded multiple times of the beautiful perspective children have to offer:

*Last Saturday, and again (yesterday / this morning), I assisted at the First Communion Masses. These children, some of whom may have been throwing a fit or fighting with their siblings just hours prior, stood before Fr. Jim in their beautiful dresses and coats and ties, and with reverence and enthusiasm, reached out to accept Jesus into their hand for the first time. They were awestruck and joyful, in love with Jesus and with the experience.

*Last Saturday evening at 5:00 pm Mass, Fr. Bill lifted up the host and recited the words of consecration, saying, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” Afterward, as is the practice, he held the Eucharist briefly in silence, allowing the congregation to take in the power of those words.

In that silence, a young child called out, “Yay!” causing many of us to smile to ourselves.

While I thought what happened was adorable, I did not consider it a profound moment. I dismissed it as the random exclamation of a child.

However, what happened at 9:00 am Mass the next day made me think otherwise. We began with Mass and were soon singing the Gloria. Immediately following the Gloria, in the brief silence prior to Fr. Jim offering the opening prayer, a child called out, “Yay!” and clapped her hands.

This was no longer random. These were, in fact, sacramental moments – Christ was being revealed to us through the enthusiastic reaction of a child.

*Earlier this week, a springtime snowfall covered much of the Midwest.

Adults complained because they had already planted flowers, cursed the slushy roads, and expressed being “so done”with winter weather.   

My 4-year-old grandson, like many other children that looked out the window that morning, was delighted. He asked his mom, “Is tomorrow Christmas?” and immediately wanted to go outside and play in the fresh new snow.

*I attended a deacon formation conference this week. One of the speakers encouraged us to see the best in ourselves and others, to see our true potential. One of the slides he shared was of a young child painting a self-portrait. The child had a canvas on his easel and was peering around the easel in order to see himself in the mirror and paint what he saw.

The child was small in stature, with skinny, undeveloped arms and legs. The picture he painted, however, was of a muscular superhero – complete with cape and flying off to save the world.

When he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see what others saw. He saw himself as he could be, as God sees him – with unlimited potential.

God wrote my homily for me this week, one experience at a time.

We are God’s children; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

Although brief, this scripture passage offers us at least four distinct messages: We are loved unconditionally. We are called to be childlike. We have unlimited potential. God is not done with us yet.

How many times throughout scripture are we referred to as “the children of God”? This is to assure us we are loved. God loves us as a parent loves a child – unconditionally, wanting only the best for us. He suffers when we suffer. He walks alongside us, sharing in both our joy and our sorrow.

How many times does scripture encourage us to be childlike? “Let the children come to me,” Jesus said. We are called to be childlike in our approach to our faith and in our response to God. This does not imply immaturity, but instead emphasizes the need to see life through the eyes of a child, to embrace life as a child embraces it.

God wants us to have the unbridled enthusiasm of children, to display their joyful anticipation, and to embrace their ability to let go, forgive, and move forward.

I read a quote the other day that said, “The glory of God is humanity fully alive.” Children are fully alive.

Regardless of our age, we are still being formed. God’s work is never done, so our work is never done. There lies within each of us untapped growth potential. We may not acknowledge it, but we know it in our hearts; and God knows it too.

There is a voice in our ear telling us to make more of an effort to serve others, to show mercy and compassion, to reach out to a friend in need, to be kind and understanding rather than confrontational, to try our best to love others as God loves us. That is God saying, “I’m not done with you yet.”

We are God’s children; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

Scripture informs us, inspires us, and calls us to action.

Informs us: We are God’s children. He loves us beyond measure.

Inspires us: A childlike spirit opens our hearts to the beauty of the world around us. It allows us to shout, “Yay!” when we feel God stirring in us and to create a self-portrait that reflects our strength and beauty.

Calls us to action: God has a plan for us. Begin each day with a simple prayer: “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.” We must allow God to work in us and through us.

We are offered this scripture passage during the Easter season because it is a season of hope.

Do we doubt that we are loved? Embracing our status as children of God offers us hope.

Has our vision been blurred by all that the world has thrown at us? Do we fail to find joy in a springtime snowfall? Viewing life through the eyes of a child offers us hope.

Do we feel life has passed us by? Knowing God is not yet done with us – that he has much more to reveal to us – offers us hope.

May God bless us with the awe and wonder of a child, the desire to tap into our potential, and the hope of the Easter season.

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