The other day, my 5th and 6th grade religion class was interrupted by many little three year olds who were stationed outside our door and did not want to behave. Our lesson happened to be about the Eucharist. It was the passage in John’s Gospel in which Christ tells a large crowd that He is the Bread of Life and that to have life they must eat His Body and drink His Blood (John 6:22-69). After Christ clarifies that He really does mean this, many of his disciples leave Him (John 6:66) But the twelve stay and when Christ asks them if they too will leave, Peter answers “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
An important discussion, really! But one that was quickly redirected to Lent and to our own struggle with sin.
As I heard the uproar of a whole class of preschoolers, I could not help but think of all toddlers’ favorite words: “no!” and “mine!” Many of my students have little siblings. When I asked them if they agreed, they could not help but chuckle and share many stories that proved this point. Young children relate to the world in their own terms. They are in the process of learning what is true and what is not. They assert their individuality and test adults time and time again as they learn exactly where the boundaries of proper behavior are.
While I was thinking of this, I could not help but notice the similarity between the three year olds and our own battle with sin. It is a little bit funny that we are called to be like little children to enter the Kingdom of God. We are called to depend on God like a child depends on his parents. We are to trust and to believe in Him as little children do in their parents. We are to realize that every good and perfect gift comes from God and to accept that He sometimes gives and sometimes for our own benefit takes away. And while all of this is true, we are also on a task to stop being little three year olds spiritually who relate to the world and to God in a subjective manner and entirely in our own terms.
When we sin, we really are no different than the three year old who says “no!” and “mine!” When we are unable to deny our desires, to be charitable, to do penance, and to accept God’s Will above our own, we operate on the same level as toddlers. And so paradoxically we are called to be like children and at the same time must spend our whole lives trying to help the little toddler in us grow into a more mature relationship with God and with the world around us.
Lent is precisely a time that helps us to do this. When we take up penance, we have to say no to the little three year old in us that actually wants to eat that chocolate cookie. Instead of relating to the world in an entirely self-centered manner, we control our natural inclination for comfort and recognize our own dependence on God. Unfortunately, I have much work to do with my internal three year old, but luckily, I have three more weeks of Lent to keep working on it!
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.