Each Sunday evening, Wally and I gather our kids into the living room for family prayer. (Please don't imagine anything too virtuous; "family prayer time" means kids bouncing on couch cushions, tug-a-war blankets, scraping candle wax from the coffee table, and arguments over who had which prayer book last week so who leads today so whose turn is next week and next week and the next week.)
Last Sunday, we asked the kids to reflect on the Scripture readings for Mass this week.
"It seems like God keeps calling people," they said: Isaiah in the Old Testament, kings in the Psalms, St. Paul and the Corinthians, and Simon Peter and the apostles in Luke's Gospel.
Does God still call people, or was that just in Bible times?
"Sure," said our oldest. "Like priests and religious are called."
"Or like that saint from that book who was called to be a missionary!" (Our 10-year-old was referencing Saints Around the World, an extraordinary collection of diverse saint stories with kid-friendly language and brilliant pictures.)
Another kid said Isaiah's vision in the Old Testament reminded him of God's dreams for St. Patrick that showed him how to escape slavery in Ireland and then called him back to Ireland as a missionary. (Adventures in Odyssey has a captivating kids' radio drama on St. Patrick's life.)
What about kids though? Does God call kids?
It was our youngest who spoke up: "Jesus called the children to come to him. He told the disciples to let them come."
What a reckoning. The same God who calls priests and religious and missionaries and saints also calls children. And He doesn't gather them into hugs and blessings for the potential good they might someday promise — calls to religious life or family life or missionary life. Jesus loves each child just as He encounters them, pushed forward in the curious crowds, even as his own disciples try to hold them back.
What does that mean, for little children to come to Jesus?
Praying and talking to God… going to Mass… receiving Communion… reading the Bible… loving others... listening to what He's saying… Each kid had a different idea of how God was calling them closer today.
Wally shared some final thoughts, reflecting on Jesus' directions for Simon Peter to "put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4). Simon basically answers, "We've done that already, and it didn't work." Have you ever felt like shouting that to God? Lord, I am tired!
Sometimes, life seems like doing the same thing over and over again with no results. It gets old. Simon Peter had already cleaned his nets and was done. But just because Jesus asked, Simon rows back out on the lake and lowers the nets again. And this time, he catches so many fish the nets began to tear, and he needs help from a second boat to bring in the catch. (At this point, our family evening devolved into a raucous, child-led round of "I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men… …if you follow me.")
However God is calling each of us closer this week, adults or kids, may our hearts be open.