Monday, October 19, 2015

Childlike Makes Us Authentic

Father, how do you cut your fingernails?  An elementary school altar boy asked this question of the pastor after Mass. In the View from the Ark in the  Catholic Times, the writer uses this incident to mull over an important attitude, often forgotten.

The priest writer was taken aback by the question, trying to figure out what was behind the question. Was there a method of cutting fingernails? "My mother cuts my fingernails, I can see you cutting your left hand fingernails but how do you do the right hand? Our school teacher drew blood when he cut his fingernails." He wanted to  know who was cutting the priest's fingernails.

A fingernail clipper makes the cutting a very precise and easy job. Some clippers when they cut, make no noise. He noticed with age the cutting of the finger nails was not like it was. At the beginning he thought it was the dull blade but one day the thought came that like all of nature, age brings a toughness and brittleness to his body and fingernails.

As children we remember that  scars and broken bones healed quickly. Our bodies were soft and pliable, our spirit was supple, we didn't have any preconceptions, we accepted freely and easily what was given. We were open to bold adventure. With age we saw much of this disappear because we  needed the toughness of the body to withstand threats from outside, and to protect others.

Softness is necessary but we can't make a flexible branch into a pole. Hardness is necessary if we want to stand up to the stormy world in which we live. However, softness is a distinguishing mark of life; death is stiffness. Life is open to change and growth, and why we need to be pliable and soft. He acknowledges the possibility that hardness of the body may be for future ages and for the good of other parts of our body.

However, there is no need for our hearts to become hard. Often the way we live not only does the body become hardened but our souls take on this quality.   Experience, knowledge, wisdom and courage, that comes with age doesn't make us stronger, but the flattery, self-righteousness, judging of others, our greed, and fear are hardening the muscles and tying our hands and feet.

The world we live in is making us hard. Christians know that God's love is always being poured into us  which should make us soft and allow us to recover the suppleness of youth. Isn't this why Jesus wants us to become like children. He concludes with the wish that we all become like the child who wanted to know who cut the priest's fingernails.

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