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Father Muench Says...

‘Through the eyes of a child’

December 9, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I want you to know that I love sending Christmas cards. I consider it a special time for me, a time to remember, a time to pray for my friends, many of whom I have not contacted since last Christmas. So, the writing of Christmas cards is my pre-Christmas retreat.

Likewise, I enjoy receiving Christmas cards. So many folks, so many of my friends, send out the greatest Christmas cards. I often discover new and great ideas for a homily from the Christmas cards I receive. I must admit that over the years – especially when I was in a parish with a Catholic School – the best Christmas cards that I received were from children. Even when it was just a class assignment, the cards that the children made were always very special.

Saying this, I am reminded of a recent experience of mine, an event in which I remembered how fascinating it is to see the world, to see Christmas through the eyes of a child.

One day, during the first week of Advent this year, I went over to church to celebrate Mass. I had already decided on a homily for that Mass. However, as the deacon read the Gospel at Mass, I changed my mind. This Gospel reading was a prayer of Jesus, a prayer to the Father, to his Father. The reading tells is that Jesus prayed in the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is Jesus’ prayer: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”

This Scripture reminded me that many times I have discovered something very important from a child. I hope you have had the same experience. So, as I listened to the deacon proclaiming the Gospel, I remembered such an event in my life. I decided to change my homily and tell the folks about that experience.

My story was about the time that I joined Susan and Paul and their children, Mary, Will and Anna, on a trip to Montreal, Canada. On one of the days, we visited Notre Dame Basilica in the old city. During that visit, I spent most of the time walking and talking with my great niece, Mary. I remember that day so very well. It was like I was seeing this church for the first time through the eyes of Mary, even though I had visited this place many times before.

What was so special? Mary was so wonderfully honest and trusting. She was curious about everything – every image, every statue, every mosaic. I have always enjoyed offering Mass with children’s groups. I try to have a few questions for them. However, the dialogue goes in directions that truly surprise me. There have been times when I have been challenged to keep it alive, and I have discovered that the Lord takes over in a rather spectacular way.

Among the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah certainly gets credit for the many times his writings are used in Christmas cards. He is definitely a masterful poet and certainly childlike. You will recognize many of his verses in our Christmas cards. Here is a bit from Isaiah’s chapter 11: “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots shall blossom… Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.”

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