HOMILY WEEKDAY 19 02 – Year II
Becoming Like a Child:Memorial of St. Clare
(Ezk 2:8-3:4; Ps 119; Mt 18:1-5,10,12-14)
A little trust game I like to play with children is to invite them to stand straight and stiff, arms at their side, and fall back into my arms. Some trusting ones promptly do just that, while other more fearful ones end up bending over backwards as far as they can, and need some coaxing to let go and fall back.
The message from Jesus today is clear: unless we become like those trusting little children, we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Not to get into heaven unless we become like little children makes that teaching a pretty serious one. Unfortunately, in our society today, that childlikeness is so often confused with being childish, and no one wants to be that.
Two outstanding traits of children are innocence and trust. We are being asked to strive to be innocent and pure in our lives. The sacrament of reconciliation can certainly be used for that, as will prayer for purity.
The quality, trust, has to do with how children place their complete trust in their parents. Jesus models that for us – he always had complete trust in his Father, and was always conscious of doing only the Father’s will for him.
It can and should be the same with us. We must, like him, depend and trust completely on the Father. We do that by depending and trusting completely on Jesus and his Word.
That is where the first reading comes in. Ezekiel was asked to eat, to consume the Word of God, and then go out to speak to the people of Israel in a prophetic way. That is what we must do – ponder and focus on the Word of God; read and pray with the scriptures; listen to the voice of Jesus in the scriptures, and then share that Word with others.
In both these ways, striving for purity and innocence, and trusting completely in Jesus and the Father through scripture and prayer, we can become childlike.
There are many models to follow. Considering innocence and purity, the magazine Love One Anotherpromotes living a pure life by means of a Pure Hearts Movement that encourages young people to live a chaste life. Concerning being childlike, the late Fr. Brian Jayawardhana OMI prayed that he would die like a child, with a smile on his face, and he did.
Paul D’Arcy, retreat master, shares her story of how she was able to let go of her plans for her life after the loss of her husband and child in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, and find a greater purpose for her life, which she is now living out. That involved being able to forgive the drunk driver, even though he refused to repent or even to accept responsibility.
St. Clare, whom we honor today, certainly had simple faith. She was born in Assisi about the year 1193. At the age of 18, she heard a sermon preached by Francis of Assisi and commited herself to a life of poverty. On Passion Sunday 1212 she secretly left home and went to the place where Francis lived with his community. Before the altar in the little church, she received the habit from him and went to live in a nearby Benedictine convent.
Clare was joined by her younger sisters Agnes and others, and the small community moved to San Damiano, near Assisi. Soon after, Clare’s mother and sister Beatrice also joined them. In 1215, Clare was made abbess of the Poor Clares. The women modelled their life on the ideals of St. Francis. They went without shoes, slept on the ground and never ate meat. Before long, other houses were founded in several countries.
Francis taught all his friars’ needs should be met solely from daily contributions. It was Clare’s great desire that her community also practise radical poverty. For 40 years Clare was abbess and never wavered from caring for her community or from assisting Francis. She received papal approval for her own Rule the day before she died – the first rule written by a woman for women. She was credited with many miracles and canonized just two years after her death.
The Eucharist is a gathering of the children of God, who come to listen to God’s Word, and to be nourished at our family table with the Body and Blood of Jesus. May our celebration help us to ponder God’s Word like Ezekiel, and be childlike like St. Clare, so as to already participate in the Kingdom of God.