St. Thérèse and the beauty of childlike spirituality
A Reflection for Friday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. (Jb 42:3)
The image of the newly blessed Job, living another 140 years and getting to watch his children and his grandchildren and even his great-grandchildren, resonates with me as I watch my five-month-old granddaughter negotiate the space to turn from her back to her stomach. Her physical calculations grow by the day as she learns to bring the toy giraffe to her mouth and make the stars and moon of the mobile above her head dance when she bats at them. Watching her brings me joy.
The biblical Job has had a rough time of it, but in the end he finds peace by letting go of any pretension to knowing the mind of God. Like a child, he accepts the mystery of “things too wonderful” for him to understand. Luke’s Gospel expands on the theme of simplicity as he recounts Jesus’s words of praise for the “Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.” Jesus does not encourage us to be childish, which is a different, self-centered connotation, but to be childlike in the practice of our faith: to love and serve a God we will never really understand, to trust and follow God into the unknown. We adults can spend our lives aiming to be spiritually childlike, with varied success.
Jesus does not encourage us to be childish, which is a different, self-centered connotation, but to be childlike in the practice of our faith: to love and serve a God we will never really understand, to trust and follow God into the unknown.
It’s perfect that today’s readings focus on the childlike as we celebrate the feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. St. Thérèse’s short life reminds us to appreciate the simplest of God’s blessings, to follow her “little way” of unassuming, small acts of service to others, to scatter little flowers of love wherever life takes us.
“The revelation of your words sheds light / giving understanding to the simple,” says Psalm 119, and that holy light is the thing we simple souls count on to illuminate the dark patches on our path to God. Like Job, I feel so fortunate to get to watch my granddaughter’s progress, her purity of intention, her intensity of focus, her determination to explore, all wrapped in a sense of wonder that seems boundless. She delights in her mother’s face, in the flight of a butterfly, in the family dog rolling in the grass. She came into this world with an unspoken, unshakable confidence in being loved. Under all our adult layers, that childlike belief in the assurance of divine care whispers to us. Blessed are the ears that hear it.