I hope that by now many of you have seen the images of the small child who recently stole the show at the Papal Audience celebrating family life in the Year of Faith. For those of you who have not seen it, there are children seated around the stage during the proceedings and at one point a small boy (maybe 5 years old) gets up and walks up to where the Holy Father is seated. We later learn that the boy was an orphan from South America who had recently been adopted by an Italian couple. Throughout the proceedings the boy engages the Holy Father, and much as some try to get him back to his seat, he is content to hang out with Pope Francis to the point that he even gets into the Pope’s chair when Francis stands up to address the congregation. The video is delightful and while many are commenting on the gentle and unflappable way that Pope Francis reacts to it, I am more taken by the simple inhibition of the boy. There is a treasure in a time when we were not so caught up in what others may think!
This Sunday’s Gospel find’s us reflecting on a not so young boy Zacchaeus, who is willing to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus. I am amazed at the extent to which this man will go just to get a look. I am sure that just as there were those in the crowd who thought that someone should go on stage and get that little boy of the platform with the pope, so too there were people who looked at Zacchaeus and thought he had gone too far and probably needed someone to control his actions as well. But redemption comes to Zacchaeus’ house as a result of this risky behavior and so too this little boy is being celebrated. So it would seem the question that comes to all of us as a result is simply this: What inhibitions are keeping us from being closer to Jesus?
Social mores are important on many levels and no one is suggesting that we throw all inhibition out the window. And yet, there are times when social convention keeps us from some of the simplest acts of our faith that can place us in God’s presence. May I suggest that the sign of the cross before a meal, accompanied by a short silent prayer to bless your food, could be just such an act that you may have avoided for fear of its social acceptability. I challenge you in this small gesture to overcome your inhibition, an inhibition that you would not have had as a child, and take a small stand as a believer in Jesus to make his presence real to you in public places: The Penn Pavilion; The Loop; ABP; The Mad Hatter; your dorm room; anywhere; EVERYWHERE! Bless yourself and your meal and welcome Christ to your table. There will probably be no viral videos made of it, but as adoringly as Pope Francis looks upon that little boy, imagine our Heavenly Father gazing upon you!
Have a great week and know that you are always welcome in my office, or to stop me on campus.
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