You Have Revealed To Little Ones The Mysteries Of The Kingdom
By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell
One of the main principles of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to focus on “the essential.” In preparing the presentations for the children, it is important to not overwhelm them with explanations full of deep theological concepts. Instead, we find the one kernel, the key phrase, the key theme, the key image, and we let each child experience the wonder surrounding it in their own way. Their reactions may be big or small but, as Paul’s letter to the Romans emphasizes, sometimes when the Holy Spirit is at work, there are no words; only silence and awe.
Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It is a speck, barely bigger than the head of a pin. The children of the Atrium put their hands out to us and cup them together. They are anxious to have “the smallest of all the seeds” placed in their hands. The moment they receive the seed they are struck by the size and raise their cupped hands closer to their face to get a closer look.
They engage with the reverence of the moment the same way adults respond to the miracle of a newborn baby. Some comment on the size over and over exclaiming, “It is so small,” while others sit in awe trying to protect the seed in their hands. The children are keenly aware that the seed they are holding has a strength within that no words can describe. We also show the children a picture of the transformation which will occur once that seed is planted and grows. The tree has a trunk that is thick and can grow to be 20ft tall. The branches extend and weep like a willow’s. It can withstand harsh arid climates and, no matter what it endures, it will continue to grow and survive. It is a transformation that is both mysterious and beautiful.
For our youngest children in the Atrium, the essential is the movement between small and great. So simple but so very rich with meaning. They take this knowledge and apply it to everything they see in the world. Everything that grows, including themselves, starts small and transforms into something that seems unimaginable. Eventually we, the catechists, pose the question, “Whose strength could be so great, to transform a mustard seed into a tall tree?” It is the marvel of creation. For God’s presence is in all things and always ensures that new life and growth will occur. Even if it seems impossible.
This is the Kingdom of God. It is all that exists as it is born and transforms and withstands. It is beyond words. But to marvel at it, as the littlest amongst us show us, is a form of prayer. Jesus tells us to humble ourselves like children. So today, let each of us take a moment to be childlike and marvel at the Kingdom of God that is all around us.
Wisdom 12.13, 16–19
By Tina Sibbald
School is out; many book vacation time this month, and we enter a mindset very different from the fall, or the Christmas and Easter seasons. Life slows down for a little while, and we rest. Even the Gospel this week has that feel to it.
Ironically, the rest that Jesus offers us involves activity, not passivity. We are invited to take up the yoke of Jesus. In modern day farming it is tractors plowing fields, not oxen, but one can imagine how hard that work was. That doesn’t feel a lot like rest.
Sometimes it takes symbolism from a simpler time to make the point. Imagine being the only one attached to the yoke and pulling the weight of the plow. That plow symbolized life, and life is hard work, especially when we try to do it alone. So when Jesus invites us to share His yoke, do you think it is because He needs us to lighten His burden?
When we truly align ourselves with God, it is Jesus who does the heavy lifting. That’s how we find rest. While other obligations and workloads may lighten during the summer months, what a great opportunity there is to spend time aligning ourselves with, and getting to know Jesus in a fresh new way. Reading an uplifting book, taking a contemplative and prayerful walk in the park, paying a visit to someone who is home-bound, or volunteering at a lunch program are all great ways to find rest, and peace.
The summer season offers us a wonderful opportunity to take a deep breath and pause. Why not invite Jesus to be part of that? You may find more rest and peace than you ever thought possible.
Romans 8.9, 11-13
TALKING TO GOD
By Emily VanBerkum
I have spent a great deal of time contemplating Jesus’ words to his Apostles in today’s Gospel. Jesus commissions them to go forward and preach God’s Word by their very lives, not simply because they are told to do so, but as a result of their real, life changing encounter with Christ as God incarnate. Jesus’ words are poetic. “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” To me, this is a clear sign that the road to bring others to Christ is not always a clearly defined or paved path.
To give encouragement, Jesus reveals something of God’s mercy and love by reminding them that God cares for even the smallest and cheapest offering made in the Temple and counts every last hair on our head. All are accounted for and embraced as part of God’s intended creation. Nothing willed by God is ever in vain. Therefore, we may sometimes feel confused by God’s action, or presumed inaction, in our lives. We may typecast God as being distant from us or as a “big picture” kind of thinker. And yet, to me, God is in all the little details of our lives.
Growing up, my parents would say a bedtime prayer before making the sign of the cross on my forehead and kissing me goodnight. They would not say anything scripted, but rather offered words from the heart usually expressing gratitude or would ask for God’s help. I am grateful to them for instilling in me the ability to really talk to God. In this way, God was always near, very personal, and intimately acquainted with my goings on. Our parish’s baptismal preparation program focuses on growing in relationship with God. Time, energy, care- these are but a few characteristics of how we build strong and healthy relationships with those we love. God is no exception. If we desire for God to be near to us, and to be receptive to God’s Word, it is essential that we dedicate to God and our faith lives the same time and energy we spend cultivating our other important relationships.
Allow today’s Gospel to be a reminder that no detail that weighs on our minds or hearts is too minuscule or insignificant to be overlooked by God. My prayer is for us all to recognize God’s actions both big and small and to talk to God as a close friend and confidant. Today, I share with you the words of Saint Alphonsus Liguori who offers us some direction:
“Become accustomed to talking to God as though you are face to face, familiarly, with confidence and love, as to a friend, the dearest friend you have, who loves you so much…There is no doorkeeper, for whoever wishes to speak to God; indeed, it is God’s pleasure that you should talk familiarly with God. Speak to God of your business, of your plans, of your sorrows, of your fears, and of all that concerns you. Above all do it, as I have said, with confidence and with an open heart, because God is not accustomed to speak to the soul that does not speak to God. Such a soul, being unused to dealing with God, will not well understand God’s voice when God speaks.”
…and the words of Venerable Dorothy Day: “If I have achieved anything in my life, it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk to or about God.”