A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Innocent Eyes

Fr Kevin Bates sm

Last week we welcomed ninety of our children to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. It was a moving experience for all of us.

One image that stays with me is the look of innocence in the eyes of the children as they came to encounter the mercy of God in the Sacrament. They knew it was a special and sacred event in their lives. They knew they were supported by their parents and all who had helped them prepare. They knew too, that somehow, they were getting in touch with a gift of forgiveness that is as simple as their childlike view of the world.

The wonder in their eyes said it all.

Their innocence left one longing to re-visit that place of simplicity, clarity and unencumbered love.

As life rolls on we all manage to muddy the waters somehow, such is our original sin!

Relationships become wounded and complicated. They require delicate handling and excellent footwork. The rumblings in our own hearts cause us grief, lead us to complicate our lives in ways we’d rather not, and the age of innocence becomes well and truly a thing of the past.

Our faith, as it grows, moves from being a simple encounter with a loving God to a series of difficult and often unanswerable questions. Suffering has a part to play in the unfolding of these questions, as does our struggle to live simply and truly.

Moral values which were once simply understood, become bruised with compromise and excuses and sometimes end up in the too-hard basket or the why-bother bin!

Our society survives with a modicum of truthfulness and bucket-loads of compromise. Our political world is shot through with a mixture of idealism, good will and self-interest.

Our Church is a community of the broken, the lost, the holy, the self-righteous and the heroic. Our sins as a Church are on display for all to see, and for many, our claim of moral authority is damaged beyond repair.

How can we possibly un-clutter our world when it has become so scarred by our wounded human condition?

Jesus warns us that unless we change and welcome the Kingdom of God like a little child, we’ll miss his meaning altogether.

We long for that simplicity of life, that clear vision, that sureness of faith. The look in our children’s eyes tells us that such things are possible.

We glimpse this hope at other times too.

The look in the eyes of parents, as they present their child for Baptism, tells us that they know that they are onto something sacred here.

The look between a couple as they commit their lives to each other in marriage tells a similar story.

The eyes of a dying parishioner, receiving the healing touch of
Anointing and a last Communion, brings one back to the simple truth that simplicity of heart is not only possible, but is something real and living among us.

We often try to manufacture this joy and simplicity. It’s a kind of mask we put on at parties or other social events. We see it similarly manufactured in the bright faces of advertising with people portraying the kind of joy that is designed to make us feel unhappy with what we have already so we’ll buy what they have! It works, but only to a shallow point.

We thank God for our children and their wide-eyed wonder. We thank God for the way that their innocent eyes tug at our hearts and call us back to the simple truths that nourish, refresh and make whole.

Jesus is still with us in Spirit, and promises that a return to wholeness of heart and holiness of life is within our reach, such is his great grace.

This week, may you find a way back to the simple faith, the truthful spirit and the joyful trust in God’s promises that our children are here to teach us.

Fr Kevin Bates sm is parish priest of Holy Name of Mary Parish, Hunters Hill, Sydney. His website: www.kevinbates.com.au

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