Last year I remember rushing into mass minutes before the opening song. Exhausted from hours of setting up for a ministry event, I was unable to prepare for mass properly. Sliding into my usual spot I jumped to attention as the procession began. My eyes naturally scanned the area directly across the expanse to those standing on the opposite side of the altar from me.
Something caught my eye, or rather, someone. There in all his glory, a huge grin filling his face, stood a boy of about thirteen excitedly swaying like Ray Charles. He had a large print missal in one hand as the other hand shook with delight at the sounds coming from the choir a few feet away. He could barely contain himself as his mom stood quietly beside him.
A grin as big as Texas crossed my own face before I knew what was happening. His joy was as contagious as chicken pox and a hundred times more fun. The disquiet I had been burdened with ten seconds earlier was gone. I felt light as a feather and every fiber of my being was touched by the sheer exuberance this young man displayed.
Is this the childlike quality that Christ Jesus wishes us to have?
I couldn’t seem to soak in enough of him. In his innocence, receptivity, and participation, he showed us all what mass could be, if we let it. Sure he was a young man with some disability, but was he really disabled? Nothing could hold back his enthusiasm every time the music started up.
I found myself staring, hungry to absorb more of that God-energy he appeared to have in boundless abundance. Anything at all that might have been troubling me was a million miles away. All I could do was be caught up in the mass and music through his delightful gladness.
I want what he has. I desire to love God with such total abandon, disregarding those who may stare and point, and to enter into the ecstasy. We adult folks like to keep things in check: arms tightly at our waist, minds sometimes a thousand miles away, eyes checking our watches if the homily goes a minute or two longer than our interest can tolerate.
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)
“Turn and become like children.” Like children. Little children. How does one become like a child? The key word that strikes me, the one I don’t think I ever heard before is “turn.” I guess it means when it comes to God, we can always turn back and become little again. In His heart I think we always are.
I know when I look at our granddaughter I can’t help but smile. I want to take her in my arms every chance I get and kiss her until she can’t take it anymore. I don’t get tired of seeing her sweet face, picking her up, or coming to her rescue when she falls.
Perhaps God sees us that way: helpless, pitiable at times, vulnerable and needy. Maybe that’s why He will continue to reach out and love on us rather than write us off in our sinfulness.
God leaves us plenty of reminders of His relationship to us in our children, grandchildren, and especially this boy who is precious, sweet, and innocent, praising his God in song with exultation and self-abandon.
Why do we care what others might think if we sang a little louder, or even sang at all? What would happen if our Amen was actually audible? How about if we popped up out of bed on Sunday and couldn’t wait to get to church, greeting enthusiastically all those we met along the way saying, “I’m going to see Jesus. I can’t wait to tell you about Him.”
Why are we afraid, timid, and apathetic? Are we Christians going to encounter the living God, hear His Words, and consume His Flesh, the Bread of Life? Or are we checking off a box on our way to Sunday breakfast, the real big event of our weekend?
Thank you, Lord, for the gift you leave us through these gentle souls. Help us to lose ourselves in your loving kindness and mercy. Help us trust you and let go. Fill us to overflowing that we may pour your amazing love on our broken world. Teach us to become like the children you created us to be. Thank you for the witness of sweet, wonderful souls such as the happy boy at mass. Amen.