SATURDAY HOMILY: God's Modus Operandi
This is God's modus operandi: He is drawn to those who are simple, pure and childlike.
He knew his place. He was deferential to the older and more experienced men in Jesus' extended family. While he easily outran St. Peter in the race to the empty tomb on the morning of the resurrection, he properly deferred to the elder Prince of the apostles and allowed him to catch his breath and enter first.
St. John, we know, was the object of special fondness on the part of Jesus. He was, after all, the "baby" of the apostolic band and hence he will be forever remembered as the "beloved disciple." He was the only apostle to be favored with the grace of resting his head on the heart of the Master at the Last Supper and to stand at the foot of the Cross close to Our Lady during the darkest hours of Our Lord's Passion and Death.
God is drawn to those who are simple, pure and childlike. "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things [the mysteries of the Kingdom] from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike" (Matthew 11:25).
This is God's pattern throughout salvation history. A relatively recent example of this would be the events which took place in Fatima, Portugal, in the years 1916-1917. Lucia and the Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco, poor shepherd children, were given to see visions of supernatural realities.
They were laughed at and scorned by friend and foe, but they were unshakeable in their testimony about what they had seen and heard. It is true. God entrusts gigantic tasks to those who, in the eyes of the world, are small and despised.
Let us be quick to acknowledge that what St. John recounts in the Book of Revelation and what the Fatima Children recounted of their "visions" are not on the same level. The former is part of the canon of scripture and hence carries the guarantee of Divine inspiration and total inerrancy. The latter comes under the category of "private revelation."
But with that qualification aside, the point is the same. St. Paul expressed it this way: "God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Just the other day I was in a nearby Catholic bookstore to purchase a birthday gift for one of my nieces. As I was about to leave, a young woman walked in and as soon as she saw me (I didn't recognize her at first) she smiled broadly and called my name. "Father, do you remember me? It's been a long time. I attended your Confirmation classes way back in the 90's!"
As it turns out, I did remember her but before I could say anything she made a sort of "public confession" right there in the bookstore. "Father, I have been away from the Church for a long time. A lot has happened in my life since I last saw you. I have a baby now and I need to get him baptized." And she added, "And I need to get to Confession because I want to be holy so I can be the best mother I can possibly be for my little boy."
Through that small child, her baby, the Lord was speaking to that young mother, calling her back to Himself. As she poured out her heart in that public place with trusting, childlike inhibition, little did she know that God was pouring into her soul graces which will lead her to conversion and to a deeper relationship with Him.
This is how God works. This is His modus operandi. "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). These words of Jesus are addressed to everyone, no matter what one's chronological age may be. God is not blinded by ageism. Fact is we all must become small. We all must turn, that is, be converted (straphēte, in the Greek) and become like children.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is 85 years of age. Sadly, I know people more than half his age who act more like octogenarians than does the pope. Sin makes our souls old and decrepit, so to speak. God's grace makes them young again. German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, a longtime acquaintance of the Pope, once described our amazing pontiff in these words: "He has the intelligence of 12 professors and is as pious as a child on the day of his first communion."
Tomorrow (or later today, by anticipation) the joyful season of Advent begins. During this time the Sacred Liturgy focuses our attention on the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas and His coming to judge the world at the end of time. In this Advent season in this Year of Faith let each one of us earnestly ask the Lord for the grace to become childlike again so that we may live in His Kingdom now and forever.
As always, we turn with profound trust and filial affection to the Mother of the Savior, knowing that She never ceases to intercede for us, Her children by grace.
Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, California.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Fr. G. Peter Irving III, Holy Innocents Long Beach, spiritual childhood, Book of Revelation, St. John the Evangelist, Pope Benedict XVI
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