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Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9:00 am
Child psychologists tell us that one of the necessary steps in what is called "individuation" (the realization that I am a unique person amongst the rest of humanity), is the experience of someone saying "no" to my desires. Suddenly, there is that strange world out there that IS NOT ME! It just said "no" to me. Imagine?!
It works the other way too. A child separates himself from the parent and demonstrates their own personhood. "Time for bed."; "NO!" It can be a trying time for child and parents. But, we all have to go through it.
We call it the "terrible two's". Up to now the child has been something of royalty. Their every need (as best one can) is seen to by loving, anxious parents. Food on demand, warmth, bathroom, holding, touching, cooing are showered on the child. A little king or queen they are.
Then comes the day they hear and understand the opposing wishes of someone else, and life becomes a contest of wills. A parent's pain comes when their wise and loving no is perceived as abandonment or harshness by the child.
But here is where adults have the advantage. We see the big picture. We know the consequences of too much candy, too late to bed, too much rough play ("this will end in tears", mom says.)
With our big picture, we also know the "no" of a child is terribly temporary and does not represent the child at his or her best. Constant kindness, gentle firmness, will win the day. Why? Because the child so desperately needs your love. They come back to your arms if they see the love in your eyes and hear the tenderness in your voice.
We hear a "No" from a boy to his parent in the gospel this Sunday. Jesus compares God to a parent who asks his son to go work in the father's vineyard. "I don't want to", he says. But later the boy changed his mind and went (Unlike his brother, who played his parents with a "yes", but didnt go).
What does this tell us about ourselves? Several things. We are free. We can say "I will not" to God, and God will allow it. We can change our minds and our way of behavior and be welcomed back like wed never been gone. We can say yes to God, but have it mean nothing if we dont do it.
What does it tell us about God? I think it says God sees the big picture. God doesnt freak out about our disobedience. Our first reactions to things are not too important to him. God sees our "yes" or "no" in its fullest context. He knows WHY we choose as we do. (Sometimes even we dont know why we act as we do!). God is willing to wait, to invite again, to take another approach to us, to never let our no be the end of the conversation with him.
Of course, in the end we are responsible for our yes's and no's. We must own the consequences of our choices. BUT . . . there is no refusal to God by word or deed that cannot be reversed. No matter how late in life! Remember last Sunday's gospel? Those called to the vineyard in the last hour of daylight received a full day's pay.
Lastly, what does this say about how we should react when our children seem to say "no" to God when they say no to church? Send me your thoughts here.(firstname.lastname@example.org). (Perhaps I can put the really helpful comments here in another column --- dont worry, no names!).
We are a Catholic faith community blessed with the joy of God’s love. Together we share this love with all who hunger for God’s presence in their lives. We follow Christ who taught us to find God by giving our lives in service to others and gathering to celebrate a Eucharist that welcomes everyone. Join us on this journey!