Monday, September 27, 2021

The Gospel According To A 7-Year-Old: A Reflection on the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This week, I find myself writing with Jonathan, my 7-year-old, instead of Wally, my husband. Jonathan and I are reflecting on the Sunday Mass readings from an urgent care waiting room following a mishap on the monkey bars.

Between kids’ extracurricular activities, weird work schedules, Scout camping trips, and the surprises life is always throwing our way, it seems Wally and I haven’t had a moment alone together all week.

It’s ironic because over and over again in this week’s scriptures, we hear about the necessary gift of partnership, especially marriage, and community.

“It is not good for the man to be alone,” God declares in Genesis 2, so He gifts man and woman to each other in marriage, “and the two of them become one flesh.”

After reading the Old Testament passage together, I asked Jonathan what it made him think of. He reminded me what came next in their story:

“Adam and Eve had to leave the garden because they ate the fruit from the tree, and God said not to. They lost the happy place in the garden.”

How easy it is to lose our peace and happy places when pulled into the many distractions of daily life! Jonathan’s words are a good reminder for Wally and me to create special time together each week in spite of our busyness.

This week’s Responsorial Psalm lists some blessings that might come from a marriage centered on God: work that produces good things, a home full of children, a community that is peaceful and prosperous, and generations of loving relationships…

“Blessed are you who fear the Lord… For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork… your children like olive plants around your table… may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem… may you see your children’s children.” (Psalm 128:1-6)

After reading the Psalm and thinking for a moment, Jonathan said:

“I heard the word ‘live’ in it, and it said to spend time with your children.”

From the mouths of babes to the rest of us: we need to spend time with our children! God calls them blessings around our table, but how often do we gather around our table? I know our family has been on-the-go a lot lately…

In this week’s New Testament reading, St. Paul writes that Jesus made himself “lower than the angels” to bring us all together:

“He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers.’” (Hebrews 2:9-11)

After hearing this, and sitting quietly for several moments, Jonathan said:

“There was a president who said it’s not fair when people with darker skin are treated unfairly. I think Jesus is a friend of us, and He wants us to be kind and friends with each other.”

What divisions do we have in our faith communities? I used to think prejudice was a thing of the past, especially within our parishes. But then, someone asked what my gut response is when I hear a Mass is going to be bilingual or trilingual… Do I rush to find a different Mass? Am I annoyed when cultures come together to share Communion, or do I rejoice at our brotherhood and our ability to unite in worship?

Finally, in this week's Gospel reading, Jesus challenges the Pharisees' use of Mosaic Law to defend divorce. He reminds us this wasn’t God’s plan from the beginning of creation:

“Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mark 10:2-12)

I was afraid this Gospel reading would be too obscure for a 7-year-old. But the Word of God is accessible to each of us in our own place, and this is the interpretation Jonathan offered after a few moments:

“It’s kind of like, in that episode of the show Chicken Squad, when the squirrel and the rat were arguing about having a tea party or a pizza party, but then they figured it out by putting the two parties together and putting acorns on pizza. And the chickens said, ‘This tastes delicious!’”

I don’t mean to belittle the very real and difficult issues of marriage that many are navigating. Indeed, as the Church teaches, in some cases, God did not actually join two people together in marriage—a sacrament didn’t occur, even if a ceremony did. From this understanding, the Church grants annulments.

But in so many ways, not just in marriage, we’ve lost the art of compromise and seeking common ground. It’s all or nothing, one side or the other, my way or the highway… and we all lose. In the words of my 7-year-old, we need to work more toward combining our tea parties and pizza parties!

While it wasn't my intention to write with Jonathan this week—and next month, Wally and I will be back on the docket!—what a blessing it was to hear reflections on Scripture from a child. Surely it's not a coincidence that the next few verses after this Sunday's Gospel passage include Jesus blessing children and their kingdom insights:

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mark 2:14)

(If you want to try this kind of reflection with a child, just read some Scripture together, enjoy a moment of silence, and then ask them what they think… Remember to listen more than talk.)


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