August 27, 2010

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Be youthful in your life of faith

Sean GallagherMy 3-year-old son, Victor, likes me to give him what is called at our house a “spinning hug.”

I’ll pick him up, hold him tight and then spin him around and around. When it is over and we are both a little dizzy, Victor will inevitably have a big smile on his face and he’ll say with glee, “Again! Again!”

So I’ll usually pick him up and repeat the procedure over and over until I am either too dizzy or too tired to give a positive response to his continued “Again! Again!”

I recently gained a new and spiritually profound perspective on this little charming episode in the life of my family when I came across a quote from G. K. Chesterton, an English Catholic writer active about 100 years ago:

“A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.

“For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough. … It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again,’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again,’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Chesterton is onto something here. All of us need to be youthful and joy-filled in our life of faith. So many people in our world think Christianity is a tired-out religion. They think that it has nothing good to offer to the world. They see believers—whether the perception is true or not—as only wagging their fingers at the bad behavior they see in others.

While our Christian faith challenges us to do good and avoid evil, it does so because of the conviction that doing good actually makes for a happier life and that doing evil will make us sad, even if it is presented to us initially as the path to pleasure and delight. This has been shown so many times to be a terrible illusion throughout the history of the world and the history of our own lives.

It is only our continued irrational attachment to this illusion that makes us think that the life of faith is hard. When we see the Gospel in this way, we are going to end up acting like the tired grown-up people that Chesterton described. Who would want to be like them?

Really, though, Chesterton’s thought wasn’t original to him. Our Lord, who was so youthful and joy-filled, taught this happy truth to his disciples: “Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me’ ” (Mk 9:36-37).

Just before Jesus revealed this wonderful truth, the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest among them.

In showing himself and our heavenly Father to be like little children, our Lord exhorted his disciples—and us—that we should let go of the conceit of our adulthood and, through the help of the grace of God, become childlike once again.

Then, instead of seeing our life of faith as a burden, we will wake up each day and imitate little Victor by saying in our hearts, “Again! Again!” to all that the Lord will ask of us and offer to us in the day to come. †

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