Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Becoming Like Children

"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:3

Today is the Memorial for St. Clare of Assisi. She is not as well known as her contemporary, and spiritual father, St. Francis of Assisi. But she lived a life exemplifying the text above.

From her childhood, St. Clare longed to devote herself completely to Jesus. She was a beautiful noblewoman and had many suitors. But the only one she wanted was her Lord. She eventually stole away secretly one night to give herself to God. She founded an order of women known then as the Poor Sisters, but who have since become known as the Poor Clares. They devoted themselves to poverty and to prayer. They spread quickly throughout the world. Today, nearly 800 years later, the Poor Clares continue to live a life of poverty and prayer.

Not all of us are called to live out our vocation in Christ in such a radical fashion. But as we look at the text today, we see that we are called to embrace this fundamental principle: childlike faith in God. We are called to a simple obedience. Rather than question and reason, we are called to merely believe. In this, we show ourselves to be the children of God; children of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As adults, there are a lot of things that we allow to get in the way of such childlike simplicity. We think we are too sophisticated. We have outgrown such childish fantasies. We live in the real world. We have have grown-up responsibilities. It goes on and on. But in the face of all of this, and knowing full well what He was saying, our Lord still calls us to take the position of a child in relation to our heavenly Father. Jesus teaches us to trust Him completely.

A sure sign that we fail in this calling is the never-ending propensity for worry and anxiety. Stop for a moment and think of young children at play. Are they distracted by thinking about how they will pay for college, manage their stocks, or plan for retirement? Of course not! The idea is laughable. Yet, God calls us to live as children and we worry about those things and a host of others besides. It shows that we are thinking more like the world around us than the children of God whom we are called to be.

The place of a child calls for humility as well. The old adage that children should be seen and not heard has a long history. It indicated that the place of a child was the lowest rung of society. Our Lord is calling us to such humility; to take the lowest place, be self-effacing, and hidden.

Such are the aspects of the child that we are called to imitate. Jesus tells us that this disposition is essential if we are to inherit eternal life. Such a demeanor comes only through a life given to prayer. In prayer, we see ourselves through God's eyes. We are humbled. We see our own wickedness and know instinctively that we do not deserve God's grace. Yet, we find, as the Scripture says, that His mercy endures forever, and that His love is without end. We are free to become like children because we find that we truly have a Father who loves and cares for us.

St. Clare demonstrated these principles in her day. God calls us to demonstrate them in ours. May His grace give us such faith to completely become as children before Him today!

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