People sometimes recall in amusement, how children receiving a gift, sometimes derive more enjoyment from playing with the box, than with its contents. Jesus’ jibe at the learned and clever of his day is equally appropriate to our generation. Little kids, (when they’re not screaming to be fed or changed, or simply throwing tantrums) have a wonderful capacity to live in the moment, to be intrigued by the beauty of nature, to be loving, trusting and spontaneous. They are yet to learn to be quarrelsome, dominating, acquisitive, competitive, disdainful.
In this passage, Jesus praises his Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, the Great God, who is the Creator and Sustainer of stars and planets, of mountains and oceans and of birds and bees. Our generation’s advances in science and electronic communication give us extraordinary insights into the glories of creation, yet that hasn’t helped us much. We are the most destructive and profligate generation that has ever existed. Pope Francis says that, “…… because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. (Laudato Si #33). And, before him, Thomas Berry CP wrote, “We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’” (“The Meadow Across the Creek,” in The Great Work, 17).
In Matthew 18:3, Jesus goes on to tell us adults that, unless we change and become like little children, we won’t enter the kingdom of heaven. In some respects, the kingdom is here already in creation, the primary revelation of the Divine. As we debate how we might modify our practices of trashing Earth (or, indeed, if we should stop at all), Jesus has a message for us. Revert to our childhood simplicity. Love and revere our Mother, Earth as ‘thou’, rather than ‘it’. With this attitude of reverence and intimacy, we will be able to address the vast ecological challenges that lie ahead.
Brian Norman has been married to Kathleen for 48 years and they have 4 children and 7 grandchildren. For many years he worked with offenders and later with victims of crime. Earlier, he was a registered nurse and, in his salad days, he was a Passionist student. He is involved in the Terrey Hills community, where he is a Passionist Companion.