The teaching of little children
In recent Sunday Gospels, Jesus encourages his disciples to become like little children if they want to enter the kingdom of God. How are we to take this up? As parents, teachers and guardians, we know well enough the challenges of encouraging our children out of their childish ways. Some scripture experts state that in Jesus’ time, children were the powerless and without rights and that when Jesus encourages us to be childlike, he is calling us to be humble. But there is more to that, surely? In the situations where Jesus calls us to be childlike, he shows a deep affection and delight in children – something we often experience.
All of us cherish the times when our children charm our hearts and open us up to the mystery and glory of life. Their questions give us a fresh perspective. Their trustfulness melts our hearts to tender care. Their sense of joy renews our delight in life. As an aunt of many nieces and nephews I could fill many pages with cute stories that would delight me and probably bore you….because you have your own stories of your own children. These are important! God wants you to dwell on them and learn from them. The qualities that delight you are the very qualities that God would delight in finding in you.
Our challenge is to relearn the mystery and magic of being childlike. We can do this by remembering our own experiences with children and then imagine how we could translate that into our behaviour as adults. Then we will discover that we have grown up into the kingdom of God.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to learn how to be childlike from my children. May their lives lead me into the fullness of your life. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
“Speak to me, I will listen with the heart.”
As parents, one of the greatest joys is when our child opens his or her heart to us. We feel fulfilled in who we are. We know that we can’t force it to happen. We know it rarely happens when we are tired or cranky or busy or distracted. We know that such a sharing touches something very deep within us and within our child.
God too is a parent…one who has made it clear that listening to the desires of our hearts is of highest importance. God is never tired, cranky, busy, distracted, rather God is just waiting for us to crawl up into the divine lap and pour out our heart. Unbelievable as it seems, God listens to each of us as though we were the only one. We may find that hard to understand as we complain that our prayers go unanswered but we have to ask ourselves what type of prayers are they. Are they just words we repeat with our hearts far away? Are they orders given to God to make life easier – don’t let the boss be angry? Find me the parking spot? Let us get a good price for the house? We are more than these concerns, we have deeper needs and God knows this. Something deeply human within us blossoms when we share heart to heart with God.
This Lent, take some quiet moments with God. Perhaps when waiting to pick up the kids, when putting the washing out, during a lull at work, ask yourself, “What is my heart feeling?” and share that with God.
Loving God, you want us to draw close to you. Send up your Spirit so that we may see how much you loved us by sending us your Son. May the example of Jesus inspire our prayer. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
In Praise of Routine
Children are back at school! One can almost hear the sigh of relief across the land. It may be because activities for the children no longer need to be organised or the preschool rush is over but underneath it all there is a huge sense that we can get ‘back to normal’: to get into a routine again. Very good things happen within a routine. A routine gives a sense of security. It gives the time when children and adolescents (and adults for that matter) do their best learning. It gives us the space to focus on other things in our lives. If our routines are good.
Many important things happen routinely. Like showing care, affection and attention to each other. The building blocks of our family life are often done on what seems like ‘automatic pilot’, and that is a good thing, if our routines are good. Now is a good time to review what you do routinely: how you say ‘good-bye’ to your children as they go to school, listen to them when they come home, ensure you have a ‘happy time’ together each evening, skype a parent who may be away. Ordinary activities are the most regular and routine ways we have to show love to each other.
The same can be said for our relationship with God. If we feel God is absent from our lives, we should consider how we could bring God into our ordinary activities. One way is to pray for each of your children every day. Take time to share your concerns and love each child with God. Your shared love of your children is a great and strong bond you have with God.
Loving God, let me see the ways good routines help my family to be feel secure and to grow in love. Let me appreciate the great bond of love I have with you over my children. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
“For the most important person in the world – you!” Whenever I see an ad with a line like that in it, I feel like taking a gun to the TV or ripping out the page. What a terrible attitude to expose children to. Anyone living by that philosophy is condemning themselves to an unhappy, selfish life.
We are important…but as children of God. Made in God’s image, we are made to love and love is expressed as care. Image a community where everyone aimed at doing what was best for each other. Now you have some idea of the dance of love that goes on within God between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Many of you would have experienced a taste of that passion when your new born baby was first placed in your arms. The surge of care and responsibility towards this infant is a taste of true love.
The challenge as parents is to continue that love and care, day in and day out when you often don’t feel like it. But there is a greater challenge: to teach your child/ren to love and care in the simple daily tasks of family, school and community life. Rather than looking after ‘number one’ they need to learn to be like God and look after each other. Fostering habits of helpfulness will lay the foundation for true happiness. Small acts of daily service help them to grow into large-hearted people – true sons and daughters of God.
Loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you call us to join in your dance of love. Give us the wisdom to show our children how to truly love you and to care for each other. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
In Praise of Inadequacy.
I am currently looking after my brother’s family. He is seriously ill and has gone to the US to receive lifesaving (hopefully) cancer treatment. His wife is with him. They have six children still at school, and I feel woefully inadequate. I am doing my best, at least I think I am but… Seeking support from a friend, Mary, who has had six children, she assured me that what I feel and think, good parents think and feel on many days. Parenting well is a constant challenge and you can often feel inadequate, even a failure. It struck me that that sense of inadequacy also goes with my vocation as a nun.
I have been a nun for over forty years and ‘praying’ is my job. And I still feel that I am inadequate to the task, that I am still learning. Yes, but when I take the focus off me, I know that prayer is really God’s love flowing through me and that I have to just be within the dynamic of love.
In its deepest sense, parenting is sharing in the mystery of God bringing another person to the fullness of life. Babies come so helpless and you as parents nurture them and before you know it they become that restless, difficult adolescent wanting care, but wanting to be beyond care: oh how they can make you feel inadequate. Maybe the source of the inadequacy comes not from being inept but from a sense of the mystery of parenting. You are like God in their lives and you don’t want to stuff it up. That is not just a good thing, it is sacred. You are walking on holy ground, and in the middle of all the mess and muddle you know it. In those moments, let God be with you: just as you are trying to bring your child to the fullness of life, God, through your child is doing that for you.
Loving Father, you know the challenge of parenting. Be with me, stretch my mind and heart as I try to love and nurture my child/ren. Give me the wisdom and love of your Spirit to do my best and then rest in your love. I ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb