What could be more appropriate than to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family with a daughter and son-in-law, their four children, and four additional grandchildren whose parents are off on a little Christmas adventure? To add to the fun, one of the wee ones turned three today so we planned a birthday brunch complete with a recycled cake made by stacking and refrosting leftovers from a Christmas eve birthday cake for Jesus. Just think: we avoided increasing the sugar supply, saved money, and minimized our carbon footprints by not using extra electricity to bake a new cake. Wouldn't Al Gore be proud?
I never enjoy life so much as when I am surrounded by a houseful of little voices. Just thinking about them brings a smile to my face and a song to my heart. Jesus must have felt the same way. "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them," he told the apostles, "for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."
Why did Jesus say that? Was he praising their childishness? If he was, he must absolutely love our Peter Pan culture where big babies in adult bodies avoid reality, use sexual promiscuity and other vices as grown-up lollipops, and refuse any adult responsibility to the point of murdering their own children.
No, Jesus wasn't praising children for being childish, but for their innocence, their trusting dependence, and their complete guilelessness. The dictionary defines guile as "treacherous cunning, skillful deceit." When was the last time you were deceived by the "treacherous cunning" of a little child? When did a toddler betray you with a kiss?
The world tends to admire guile especially when the "skillful deceit" succeeds. Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing whom Barack Obama considers a mentor, taught his followers to use guile whenever necessary to get what they wanted. He called himself the Machiavelli of the poor, as if dishonesty can bring good to anyone. Guile-filled adults cook books and run ponzi schemes that rob hardworking people of their life savings. How many poor people with the "help" of community organizers lost whatever savings they had by the forclosure of a bad loan? Who benefitted? Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not the poor. Guile-filled people believe they are above the rest of men; rules of morality don't apply to them. They make their own rules no matter how evil the outcomes. As the world's powerful ones, they stand at the opposite end of the spectrum from the powerless, especially children.
Fr. John Hardon, SJ often said that only little, humble people will get into heaven. That means adults must foster the virtues of innocence, dependence on God, and guilelessness. Those virtues make one fit to serve the Lord like Nathaniel whom Jesus called to be an apostle saying, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile." Wouldn't you love to be described by the Lord in that fashion? The prescription is simple even if filling it is hard. Choose the virtue and work toward it every day through practice. That could make a great new year's resolution!