Happy and relaxed, Pope Francis went off script at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia: “Once a child asked me – you know that kids ask difficult questions – he asked me ‘Father, what did God do before creating the world?’” Kids say the “darndest” things and ask the funniest questions, yet children’s inquiries often shoot directly to the heart of the matter.
With their questions, simple or complicated, children seek to understand the deeper realities of life. Just as Bartimaeus, the blind man in this Sunday’s Gospel, cried out, “Master, I want to see,” our children cry out, “Mother, father, I want to see.” I want to know, I want to understand: Who is God? Who created the world? Is there a Heaven? Who am I? Why am I here? How am I to live? They are seeking truth. They want to see!
Children’s questions create a natural entry into conversation about the reality of God—of life. As we engage their challenging questions, we seize the opportunity of leading our children into the fullness of sight by naming grace—God’s presence. Naming grace requires faith—prayerful, deep and abiding—because faith grants us spiritual insight and opens the door of salvation. As Jesus told Bartimaeus, “your faith has saved you.”
To cultivate this vision of faith, we search beyond the surface for spiritual reality. Awakened to the moment, sensitive to the Spirit, and filled with awe and wonder, the curtain parts as we glimpse the deeper meaning of reality. Author Ronald Rolheiser writes: “What faith does is give us a double vision: When we have the eyes of faith we see a certain divine glow shimmering within the ordinary, just as we see all that is ordinary against a horizon of the eternal.”
With eyes opened by illuminating grace, parents catch glimpses of God’s presence. Opened eyes see God’s creative beauty in the stunningly streaked sunset or the hauntingly enchanting melody. Opened eyes see the Spirit’s movement in “random” acts of kindness, sudden moments of courage, and unexpected gestures of reconciliation. Opened eyes see God’s image in each human person, from the sweetest baby to hardest criminal. Opened eyes see eternal meaning and purpose in the grandest acts of sacrificial love or the smallest acts of service. We name grace each time we share with our children these spiritual insights from our own double vision.
When parents resist children’s natural inquiries, skirt their deeper questions, or placate with saccharine answers, children eventually settle into the blindness of the world. But when we alert them to the greater truth, we equip them to see life in light of eternity—as Pope Francis said, to “live life on a higher plane.”
Next time a child asks a crazy question like, “What did God do before creating the world?” Answer with truth: “God was busy thinking of you! God was excited for the ways you would bring Jesus’ love into the world! God was pleased to know you have been given eternal life!” Or if stumped, pray to the One who answers our prayers and brings sight to the blind: “Master, help me to see.” Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.