July 25, 2008

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Living as a child of God

Sean GallagherOne night recently as I was getting him ready for bed, my 3-year-old son, Raphael, laid on my bed with his arms spread straight out from his body.

While lying that way, he said, “I’m a cross.”

When I asked him who died on the cross for us, he said, “Jesus.”

A little later, he took on the same posture again, and said with a smile and in his cute tone of voice, “I’m pretending to be Jesus.”

When Raphy said that, I couldn’t help but smile.

He and his older brother, Michael, love to play their own imaginative games where they pretend to be all sorts of characters: pirates, knights, deep sea divers—you name it, they’ve pretended to be it.

Ever since Raphy was baptized three years ago, it’s been a regular prayer of mine that he would grow closer to Christ throughout his life.

To grow closer to Christ means nothing less than to let Christ’s life fill and transform your own.

It means to embody here and now what St. Paul wrote so long ago: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19-20).

Pretending to be Christ is a good start for a 3-year-old along this path toward heaven.

While he’s starting off well, Raphy has had to stand in the corner some days more times than my wife, Cindy, and I can count, which, I suppose, is something to be expected for an active 3-year-old boy.

As he grows and matures, hopefully the power of grace will transform his pretending to be Jesus more and more into actually being a living sign of Christ through the witness of his thoughts, words and deeds.

This having been said, all parents—myself very much included—need to have patience with this growth process. After all, I just celebrated my 38th birthday and it seems that with every passing day I realize how much more I need to allow the life of Christ to grow within me.

An interesting paradox seems to come with this growing awareness.

Often, the more mature one becomes in faith, the more one will live in the sight of our heavenly Father as one of his littlest children.

Jesus encouraged us to take on this attitude more than once.

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Mt 11:25).

“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like [a] child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives [a] child … in my name receives me” (Mt 18:3-5).

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14).

Living a life of spiritual childhood can be a real challenge. For we adults like to think we can pull ourselves up with our bootstraps, that we don’t need any help to get around in this world.

Living as a child of God, however, means consciously depending on his help to accomplish all the good that we seek to do and to keep us from all sin.

Maybe, then, I should be more like Raphy and try to put a smile on my heavenly Father’s face by pretending more and more to be like Jesus in my day-to-day life. †

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