Can any of you remember what you were like at the age of 3 or 4?
I can’t. I have some vague pictures in my mind of standing in a kitchen, or going on a picnic, but there’s no sequence to it. What I know of the 3 or 4 year old child, I know from my experience as a parent and a grandparent, an uncle, and from children I’ve met with their parents.
What I’ve observed is that the typical child of 3 or 4 often has a question, and the question is ‘Why’?
At its best, this question reflects the child’s sense of curiosity, their wonder at a world that is still fresh and new for them. One of the great privileges that parents have is that they introduce their child to the world, they try, as best they can, to answer the ‘why’ question.
Of course, even for the best of parents there can be those times when we respond to the ‘why’ question with a bit of frustration and say ‘Why? Because I’m Mum, ( or Dad) and that’s how it’s going to be.’
But I hope I’ve never crushed a child’s sense of wonder and amazement at the world.
When Jesus speaks of the things revealed to children, but kept hidden from the learned and the clever, I believe he is referring to this sense of wonder, this curiosity, this willingness to ask why.
For a child to mature, we hope they never stop asking questions.
I would like to think that when Jesus referred to the learned and clever he had his tongue in his cheek, that he was talking about those who are certain they have the answers, those who never ask why because they are sure they have a system that explains everything, those who have stopped asking questions.
There is always a temptation to believe that we know everything, that we have all the answers. There’s the belief in conspiracy theories that attempt to totally explain politics, or for that matter a disease; or economic or psychological theories that say they can totally explain human behaviour. In all religions, of course there is the temptation to say we have all the answers. Whether in Christianity or Islam, Buddhism or atheism, there are those who believe that all the questions about meaning and life have been answered, and that they own the answers.
I can’t speak to other faiths, but I can say some things about the Christian faith. Ours is a religion of wonders, of mysteries. The Trinity; God becoming human in Jesus the Christ; the Virgin Birth; the Resurrection; the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; our vocation, as human beings, to share in divine life.
They are wonders and mysteries that we shall never totally understand. We have the revelation of God in Jesus, we have our scriptures, we have our prayer and our sacraments. These however are not final answers that leave us with nothing to ask, nothing to explore. There will always be more questions for us to ask, more to learn, more to experience.
We are called to be like children in the face of these mysteries. Curious, full of wonder, humble.
Jesus asks us to come before him with the wonder and humility of children. He promises us a light burden, an easy yoke, and rest for our souls. At this time in our community here we may well be needing a light burden and rest for our souls. We think of those three thousand people in Flemington and North Melbourne restricted to their homes in high rise towers. We think of those in our community who have lost their jobs, or whose businesses are struggling. We think of those living in fear. Our faith certainly doesn’t give us the answer to all these problems. What faith gives us is hope.
We will probably never have the final answers as to how this pandemic came about, nor an absolute certainty that this will never recur. What we do have is hope that we will not be abandoned, that faith will bring us comfort. That also means we have a responsibility to each other, and to do what we can for those living in fear.
Paul tells us that the Spirit of Jesus is in us. This is the Spirit that shares in Jesus prayer to the Father, the Spirit that invites us to take on a light burden. This is the Spirit that brings us together, to face our fears, and support each other.
Deacon Jim Curtain