April 6, 2011
“Out of the Mouths of Babes” (Mt. 21:14-17)
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
The Gospel Scene—Jesus’ Words
There is a powerful scene in the Gospel of Matthew following the incident of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus goes immediately to the Temple to cast out the money changers and all the trappings of the marketplace. Jesus proclaimed the Temple to be a house of prayer, not a place of business. The religious leaders, of course, were caught off guard and challenged Jesus. How dare he do that? And on whose authority?
But Matthew also offers a curious little detail in that the “Children were crying out, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’” And Jesus hurls back a question at the religious leaders, “Do you not hear what they are saying? Have you never read the text, 'Out of the mouths of babes and nurslings, you have brought praise?'" (Mt 21:16).
There is something about the simplicity of a child that can dissolve a highly complicated theological truth. What family has not told their young son about Aunt Mabel (who is overweight, a fact that must never be addressed in front of her), only to be embarrassed when their son blurts out, “Daddy said you are as fat as a pig.” For the child, he was simply quoting the true statement, but did not understand that Daddy’s comment was not to be said aloud in Aunt Mabel's presence.
The little son could not understand why no one else was laughing. That’s why parents soon learn to speak guardedly in the presence of a child.
Children See Life Simply
Children see things simply, speaking directly because their honesty comes from their hearts and is totally sincere. This is especially true in their relationships with God. We adults often talk to the Lord in rather formal terms, careful to get all the words right. For children, their thoughts and ideas simply spill out, conveying an honesty that is no longer within the capability of many adults.
I was giving a retreat to the Poor Clare nuns in New Jersey several months ago when one of the sisters shared the following statements from children to God that she had found in a magazine.
A teacher asked her students to say something very special to God or to ask God a question. If there is ever a time when God must smile, it’s when children talk to him from their hearts:
“Dear God: I bet it is hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family, and I can never do it.” –Nan
“Dear God: Please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there now.” –Ginny
“Dear God: If you watch in church on Sunday, I will show you my new shoes.” –Mickey
“Dear God: Sometimes I think about you even when I’m not praying.” –Elliot
“Dear God: I am American. What are you?” –Robert
“Dear God: I think the stapler is one of your greatest inventions.”
“Dear God: In Bible times, did they really talk that fancy?”
“Dear God: If you did not let the dinosaurs die, we would not have a country. You did the right thing.” –Jonathan
“Dear God: Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year.” –Peter
“Dear God: Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother.”
“Dear God: If you give me a genie lamp like Aladdin, I will give you anything you want except my chess set.” –Raphael
“Dear God: We read that Edison made light. But in church they said you did it. So I bet he stole your idea.” –Donna
“Dear God: Thank you for my baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.” –Joyce
There is a wonderful saying that bears repeating here: “Every time you see an infant or a small child, you see one more proof that God still loves our mixed-up, wounded and sinful world.”
Dear Rafael, Annie and Pat: Naturally, I’m pleased to read comments that tell me that you have found hope, strength and comfort in the words that come from somewhere within me—thanks entirely to God’s overflowing goodness and guiding spirit. May God grant healing and light to all the readers of Friar Jack’s E-spirations. And, in the words of Psalm 23, may your “cup overflow” and “the goodness and kindness” of our Divine Shepherd “follow you all the days of your life!” Friar Jack
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