By Kathy Coffey
Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter
the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself
is the greatest in the kingdom
of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4).
The following scene captures the essence of this Scripture passage: A
small blonde girl about three years old, totally naked, runs into the surf at a beach
near Santa Barbara, California. Her parents cheer, the sun spills its liquid honey
into the sea, the seagulls sweep overhead in graceful arcs. She spreads her arms wide
as if to embrace the Pacific Ocean and squeals with delight as foam scallops brush
Huddled on a beach towel beneath a straw hat, I admire her free abandon,
her unbridled joy. Become like one of these, says Jesus. At that moment,
I can see why
When Jesus asks us to become like children, we adults get a bit queasy.
We remember the bullies of our childhood, the sense of powerlessness, our dependence
on caregivers who might or might not honor that trust.
When we relive the childhood experience now, its not always pleasant.
Placing ourselves in situations where were clueless restores the pain of the
lost child. Being the awkward new kid in the advanced class, or maneuvering in a strange
vocabulary, we panic. When weve never heard of the disease weve got, or
buy a house not knowing an escrow from an easement, we wobble as insecurely as toddlers.
But by the same token, when we respond to touching music, smell a hyacinth
or see a cloud castle as if for the first time, were also in that magic childhood
zone. When I give talks, it delights me to read a bedtime story to adults
whose faces light up with remembered joy.
The Real Deal
One more obstacle to understanding this passage might be the cute stereotypes
of children that abound in the media. Those sweetsy types must be concocted by people
who dont know the genuine article. Contrast the saccharin with the Real Deal.
Real children ask excruciating questions which adults deem impolite. They
make us squirm when they penetrate our carefully constructed façades. They get
wildly excited about stuff that leaves us blasé.
Jesus knew the Real Deal because he welcomed them. Children must have
been drawn to him instinctively. They crawled all over him with snotty noses, grubby
shirts and unedited ramblings. Furthermore, he knew childhood from the inside: his
own, direct experience of being heartbreakingly vulnerable.
Jesus came to earth quietly, humbly, as a child, without fanfare or prestige.
He matured as most children do, in wisdom, age and grace, and spent the
greater part of his life in a family that to outsiders appeared ordinary. In doing
so, he blessed all children, all adults who honor the child within, all bumbling, imperfect
human families. Knowing that Jesus probably spilled some grape juice, we can forget
the misconception that in family life, holy = perfect.
In modeling the finest parts of childhood, what we are ultimately trying
to do is recapture that free abandon, that total trust that comes from knowing God
as dear parent. If God loves us passionately and looks out for every need, cant
we throw ourselves into Gods arms? Entering that safe circle means inheriting
the promised Kingdom.
If we become like children, we can leave behind our adult hesitations,
not lugging the laundry list of our wrongs. We know all is forgiven. St. Thérèse
of Lisieux spoke of casting herself on God as she would on her beloved papa: sleeping
fearlessly in his arms, hiding her face in his hair.
One of the most devastating stories that surfaced following the 2004
tsunami described parents whose children were torn from their arms by the force of
the waves. People around the world could relate to that tragedy and ache for such a
loss. If we are separated from our children or our childlike selves, we are wrenched
from so much: all that is best in us, our proper relationship to God and our hope for
Carl Jung tells of a rabbi who was asked why people in olden days often
saw God, but now no one ever sees God. The rabbi replied, Now there is no longer
anyone who can bow low enough. Except, perhaps, for those who are short to begin
Next: Whoever Believes and Is Baptized
What childlike quality do you possess? What quality do
you wish you possessed?
How can these qualities bring you closer to God and the
people around you?
Close to the Lap of God
By Judith Dunlap
When Jesus asks us to become like children (Matthew 18:3), I think the
youngsters he has in mind are those wide-eyed tykes with faces that tell you just how
they feel. There is no guile in their answers, and they leave no question unasked.
You know the typethe little ones who pull on your hand and stretch your arm in
their eagerness to get somewhere.
I think children like this must come from homes where they are loved and really cared
for. They probably live their lives certain that comfort and safety are no farther
away than a parents lap. They do not seem to know what fear and insecurity mean.
And yet I know that childhood, particularly early childhood, can be a scary timea
time of almost total dependence. Left on their own, four-year-olds could find life
extremely treacherous. But then again, left on our own, all of us find that life can
be pretty treacherouswhether were four or 40 or 84.
Perhaps Jesus is reminding us that we are all children: children of
God. We just need to acknowledge our dependency and accept Gods love. We are
not alone. We are safe and secure, loved and cared for, always close to the lap of
God. When we realize and accept our dependency on an all-loving God, we can let go
of some of our fear and insecurity. We can let that wide-eyed, bright, smiling child
inside each of us come out to play.
This summer, continually remind yourself of Gods promise to be
with you always. Gather the family and spend time just playing together. Trust in Gods
love, and then reach for your childs hand and stretch his arms in your eagerness
to share that love through your own laughter and joy.
Take time to decide as a family five fun things to do this month.
If possible, let each member choose an activity. Try to keep ideas not only practical,
but also inexpensive.
By Frank Frost
If you win the lottery, how will you spend all the money? Millions is a mythical,
metaphorical, funny and touching film about the value of money. Or is it faith? Or
honesty? Or integrity? Or miracles?
The question comes alive in two young brothers, Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) and Damian
(Alex Etel), whose lifestyle is already in transition after the death of their mother
and their move to a spanking new house in a new development in Englands industrial
Nine-year-old Anthony is precocious about money, following the stock market and able
to quote the exchange rate of the euro with Britains pound sterling. Seven-year-old
Damian is fascinated by the lives of the saints. His world is populated by saints who
visit him periodically to help him think things throughsaints (each of whom he
instantly recognizes) like Clare, Francis of Assisi, Peter and Nicholas. They always
give him guidance, and he always asks if theyve met a new saint named Maureen,
who we soon guess is his mother.
Near the familys home Damian builds his own cardboard house from empty boxes
that have been dumped next to the railroad tracks. It provides a haven where he can
read and meet his saintsuntil a huge bag of money comes bouncing out of nowhere
and crushes his personal dwelling.
When he tells his brother about it, a series of events is set in motion that will
force not only him, but also his whole family, to face up to the challenge money presents.
It will lead each of them to a new understanding of true wealth.
Anthony knows exactly how to use his sudden affluence: Hell use it to buy consumer
goods, yes. But more significantly, he buys friends and loyalties that give him status
Damian is more troubled. His encounters with the saints make him want to do something,
well, saintly. Hes inspired by a woman giving a guest presentation at his school
who teaches the practical value of money while seeking funds for a clean-water project
in Africa. (She will become his fathers love interest.) Damian determines hell
give his share to the poor.
This is not as easy as it seems, and humorous missteps help keep the film from becoming
sappy. And when Damian discovers that the money actually is the fruit of a major heist,
thrown off a train, he is crushed. I thought it was from God, he says.
The thought that he has lost a miracle distresses him more than the danger he is in
from one of the robbers determined to retrieve the money.
By the end of the film each of the four major characters has had to make decisions
about how to handle the legal and ethical complications the money brings. The ending
in a rebuilt cardboard house may not make perfect sense, but as Damians voiceover
says. This is my story and I can end it the way I want. I dont think
viewers will mind.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
St. Boniface (672?-754)
Born in England, Boniface found his life and eventually lost it in Germany,
where he labored as a missionary for 35 years. He is known as the apostle to the Germans.
He was a contented monk for many years until, around the age of 40,
he heard a call to become a missionary and spread the gospel among the Saxons of present-day
Germany. Boniface made his first missionary journey at the request of Pope Gregory
IIand immediately learned that monumental tasks lay ahead.
The Christianity Boniface found was mixed with error. The clergy were
often uneducated and lax, and some felt no sense of loyalty to their bishops. Anti-Christian
sentiment was strong enough in certain areas that he needed letters of safe conduct
from certain rulers so that he could move about freely.
After reporting these conditions to the pope, Boniface was designated
to reform the German Church. He was made a regional bishop, later an archbishop. His
task was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops and to establish houses
Despite the uphill struggles he faced at every turn, Boniface was effective
for many years. At age 80 he put aside his duties as archbishop so he could be a full-time
missionary. He returned to the area where he had begun his work decades before. Boniface
was distressed to find that many of the people hed converted had fallen away
from the faith.
More ominous were the hostile tribes who wanted no part of Christianity.
During a mission, Boniface and 53 companions were massacred. His feast day is June
Jim and Lucy Carney
Ask Jim and Lucy Carney how many hours a week they spend on their ministry
to the imprisoned, and they cant help but chuckle. The question is: How many
hours dont they give toward getting Scripture into the hands of the two
million or more imprisoned men and women around the United States?
What began as Jims promise to God at retirement to work for
him for the rest of my life has become an almost full-time commitment that also
includes Lucy, his wife of 57 years.What motivates him motivates her; what tasks he
takes on she takes on.
I dont golf. I dont have a big title. This is my life.
I try to steer people toward Jesus, says Jim.
The heart of their ministry is a set of small bookssmall enough
to fit in a prisoners pocketwritten by Jesuit Father Mark Link for his
Vision 2000 series. The booklets explore a range of topics: the Bible, the psalms,
Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Advent, Lent, Pentecost. But the format doesnt change:
a teaching followed by a contemporary story that relates to the contemporary world
and that speaks not just to Catholics.
Since beginning their ministry more than a dozen years ago, Jim and Lucy
Carney have made contact with hundreds of prison and jail chaplains around the country
and shipped a total of two million free books to them from a warehouse in Texas. The
fruits of Jim and Lucys nonstop efforts are evident in the enthusiasm of the
chaplains as well as the prisoners and in the many conversions that have come about.
Mother Teresa assured the Carneys that their ministry, which depends
on donations, will continue if it is Gods will. We keep praying, says
Lucy. So far, its worked!