A Vincentian View: The Childlike
Some time ago I read a quotation from William Makepeace Thackeray and its truth holds a firm place in my mind: “‘Mother’ is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” Whenever I am around small children—whether in Church or in a playground or in a mall—I see the truth of this statement. A child is never more at home or content than when he or she is being held by his/her mother. They readily fall asleep or survey the world or eat whatever has been handed to them. I cannot imagine that a child can conceive of a place where she/he would rather be. Can they envision someone who is softer or warmer? Can they feel safer anywhere else or posit an existence without that presence? Suggesting that “mother” is the name for God in the minds and hearts of little children requires little effort.
At the center of this connection is the felt reality that one is loved and cared for. Could we describe God in any more intimate way?
The Gospel reading for this past Sunday caused me to recall this always pleasant and welcome reflection once again. We read how Jesus says:
“I give praise to you, Father, 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.”
For the “wise and the learned,” no empirical proof of the existence of God can be found. No test can be performed which demonstrates unequivocally the presence of the almighty. No amount of data can be gathered; no events can be marshalled; no arguments can be offered. There is always another explanation, another possibility, to be considered. Remember the scene in John’s Gospel in which Jesus speaks to his Father and the Father responds. We know what happened:
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” (Jn 12:29)
Perhaps, that is as it should be. Proof of God’s being and revelation should not be subject to our analysis. Faith is a gift.
Yet, for the person who believes, human existence is unimaginable without a caring and present divinity. This is the gift to the childlike, as suggested in the Gospel for today. This describes the knowledge and experience of children. As Blaise Pascal has offered:
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
God comes to be known by the heart which opens itself to beauty and the miracle of life. The often painful discussions which take place between evolutionists and creationists miss the point. God enters into an interpersonal relationship with his beloved children and that closeness must be felt and not proved.
The powerful line from John’s Gospel allows for no compromise and expresses the unmistakable truth: we are loved.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)
That testimony has been revealed to the childlike among us. We are held and cared for by one who loves us like a mother, like a father. The truth needs no further demonstration than an open heart and a trusting spirit.