The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18)
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Ok, so today I went to 8:00 am Mass, as usual, and there happened to be the older school kids there (4th through 8th grade). I often like to be at those Masses and especially at the Masses of the Kindergarten thru 3rd grade, because the innocence of children is something that I miss so much. Kids are growing up way too fast these days, not because they want to, but because that’s what our society is doing to them. I never thought I’d see the day when 4 year olds were offered pole dancing classes and the words “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” would make my skin crawl.
Last Saturday while waiting in line to go to Confession (yes, I’m a screw-up)), I witnessed a young person standing in line to go to Confession (from listening to her and her mother, it was her first time and she was really nervous…or her mother was the nervous one. Her little brother was busy torturing her and telling her she won’t remember the Act of Contrition). It made me kind of laugh because it brought be back to the old days of Catholic School (St. Albert the Great) and my own 4 older brothers. Back in the day, we all made our first Confession together as a class. It was very scary because the nuns scared the daylights out of us promising time in purgatory if we screwed this up. In my 2nd brother’s case (from what I heard at the dinner table), my brother Mickey had confessed to the priest that he committed Adultery in his first Confession. Well, back then the priests didn’t chuckle or say, “Are you sure that’s what you did? Let’s talk about what you think you did.” Nope….there was a humongous “YOU DID WHAT????” And more loud mumbling and when my brother left the confessional a few of the kids in line behind him wet their pants. My brother wasn’t being a smart-Alec, he just wasn’t paying enough attention in class…..or the nun was not good at explaining things and he thought Adultery was telling your parents (adults) a lie. I never did find out what it meant until I was much older, but I knew it was probably a big mistake to confess it, so I didn’t.
Anyway, before Mass today I saw a little boy coming back from his trip to Confession before Mass started. The priest usually tries to fit as many people in before Mass starts, as long as we’re there and there’s another half hour before Mass starts. So, this little boy, cute as a button, comes skipping back to his mom and grandmother who were sitting in the pew waiting for him. He was smiling (cute dimples) and looking humble and proud all at the same time. Then he started to bounce up and down and then he left with his family. I’m sure he had to get back to the playground before the bell rang for school. But it was the look on his face that just stayed with me. A look of relief and “Life is good.” You would think he won the lottery or something….or at least a fish in a bowl at a carnival game.
It brought back memories of when my grandson (who is now 16) went to his first Confession. He went straight to the Pastor and let it all out. I can imagine some of the things he had to say because the Pastor was laughing so hard he was crying. (They didn’t have private confession booths at that church, so you could see what was going on. ) Afterwards, he bounced back to his pew with his mother and little sister, all grins and that same look of relief and pride at the same time. After the ceremony was over, the Pastor came up to my daughter and said, “Thanks for sending him to me, he made my day!” I shudder to think what he said! But I would never ask.
But it all comes down to this…..praying like a child in the eyes of God is the way to go. Sure, all those fancy Latin words are nice, the Kyrie Eleison’s, and the long Creeds that were rammed into our heads when we were growing up…..and then they keep changing the words from time to time just to wake you up in Mass. This is not what Jesus wants from us. I like formal prayer….the rosary is my favorite, and the Memorare is one I say often. But most of the time I just have a conversation with Him. Lately, those conversations included a lot of crying and I’m waiting for a box of tissues to suddenly appear before me as I go on (just like in the psychologists office. It’s after those prayers, those conversations with God that I feel the most comfort and a feeling of peace most often comes to me. See? Cry like a baby and God will welcome you into heaven…..act like a smug know-it-all, and you’re toast.
That’s my lesson for the day. For those who are Catholic, get ye to the Confessional often, even if you didn’t commit mortal sins, the priests don’t mind giving a little spiritual direction or hearing the venial sins, either. They never give me much of a penance because I’m too busy beating myself up when I sin….can’t sleep, can’t get to Confession fast enough. The really big and embarrassing sins are always heard at a different Church with a priest who doesn’t know me. Just to be on the safe side, in case of of them recognizes me and drags out the smoking thurble (incense burner) or what my son used to call the “smokey bell”. Once a priest told me I was kind of boring. I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or a complaint, maybe he was getting the same old boring sins all day and was hoping for something juicy from me. So sorry to disappoint. Sigh.
So, the next time someone tells you to “grow up”, tell them that you can’t or you won’t get into heaven. Or, you can tell them to go to hell and make a dash for the Confessional….and just a little hint….if you cry, they let you off on the penance.
You’ll like the video below….Kids say it like it is.