Newsflash: An eight-month-old sees the world through an entirely different lens than her grandfather does.
For instance: When you stand 24-inches tall, the kitchen is a fascinating place. The cool, smooth surface of the refrigerator irresistibly beckons a caress. And the cabinet doors? They offer an opportunity for untold adventure and discovery.
Which is why, this week, child-safety locks made their first appearance in our home in about 26 years. Granddaughter Hannah has begun laying claim to all sorts of new turf in these familiar environs. She’s finding nooks and crannies and textures that I’ve long since stopped even noticing—some of which, of course, hold the potential for harm to an endlessly inquisitive but undiscerning little mind…and so must be fortified against entry.
As we went around Hannah-proofing the house this weekend, I was drawn to the parallels between that activity—and the God-truths that turn up in the Sunday scripture readings. By virtue of my 55+ (ahem!) years on earth, I fancy myself as having gained a measure of domesticating wisdom worthy of passing on to a grandchild: ‘Don’t put that leaf in your mouth!’ ‘Don’t get your finger caught in that door!’
How often, though, do I get stuck in that particular pattern of relationship? How often do I live—and act—as if I think I know best? It’s certainly not beyond my instincts to want to domesticate God. To put God (or God’s mercy) in a nice, tight, predictable little box… one that I am in a position to control, or at least to understand.
The Holy One cautions us against such tendencies in this week’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah:
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts
Nor are your ways, my ways,’ says the Lord.
‘As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways,
and my thoughts above your thoughts.’
And in the Gospel from St. Matthew, we hear the discomfiting parable of the landowner who pays the same wages to those who work all day…as to those who work only an hour. ‘That’s not FAIR!’ our hearts want to scream…until the landowner puts something like a child-safety lock on our sense of righteousness:
‘…am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’
As St. Paul notes in his letter to the Philippians, it’s not always easy to ‘conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.’ Sometimes, we simply forget who’s in charge: We struggle against outcomes that don’t meet our expectations. We grieve over disappointments and pains. We dismiss invitations to participate fully in the building up of the kingdom.
So from time to time, it’s probably a good idea to ask: In what ways might I be trying to stuff God (or God’s will) into a tidy little box of my own design?
Or perhaps: What joys might await me if I open the door a bit further to the action of Christ’s grace in my life?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.