Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 28, 2006
My life centred on grandkids
Idolatry comes under loving guises, but for Christians, Christ comes first
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
For the better part of four years, my grandchildren lived just down the street from my wife and me. From infancy they knew our house as well as their own. All activity in our house was suspended when we heard little knuckles knocking at the door.
A grandfather's joy
When my grandchildren were babies, I would take them on my wheelchair to explore our little town. We got to know the various playgrounds dotted throughout the community. Townsfolk often laughed and waved to see the old man travelling in his electric wheelchair with a small grandchild on his lap and another standing on the back of the chair, singing Itsy Bitsy Spider, or some other children's song.
My world revolved around those children to the exclusion of everything else. I neglected my religious and domestic duties to be near them. Then one day they moved away, leaving my wife and me sad. We blubbered like babies the day our grandchildren left town with their parents. The days of spontaneous visits and daily interaction were over.
I dug out my Bible that had been gathering dust beneath a mountain of children's books and stuffed animals. The pages fell open at Matthew 16 where Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father."
Who do I say Jesus is? My response is the same answer as St. Peter's. If I really believe that Jesus is the risen Messiah, the Son of the living God" then why didn't I behave like I believe it? I heard the church bell calling me to Mass and my grandchildren to Sunday school, yet I went in the opposite direction because sunny days beckoned.
There were swings to push, Slurpies to slurp and sandboxes to explore. The sound of the bell died away.
Elsewhere in the Bible Jesus said, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). Does that also apply to grandchildren? Yes, I think it does.
Could it be that I let something as sacred as my family - a blessed gift from God - become a form of idolatry? Have I allowed my love for my grandchildren to become a form of worship and take priority over my love for Christ?
Christ was waiting to commune with me in the Eucharist (he's still waiting). He wanted to embrace me in prayer (he still does). But prayers were left unprayed, confessions left unconfessed, reconciliations let drift.
The church bell called me, invited me into the Lord's presence - and I proved myself unworthy of him. I may have proclaimed my first love is Jesus but my actions belied the rhetoric. I idolized my grandchildren.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about idolatry: "Man commits idolatry whenever he honours and reveres a creature in place of God" (no. 2113).
Perhaps God had to take my grandchildren out of my immediate proximity to eliminate my perpetual distraction from him. Teachers will sometimes draw a blind over a classroom window, on a sunny day, to stop students from being distracted from their lessons. The same is true for adult "children of God."
If a particular child of God happens to be a foolish old man who is too easily drawn away from focusing on Christ, then perhaps a blind must be drawn to keep him from the perpetual distraction of doting on his grandchildren.
In defence of my own excessive adoration, it did lay down a foundation of familial love that will abide with the grandchildren for a lifetime (not to mention their grandfather). The problem was that my adoration became excessive.
Jesus' little house
Balance is the key. God wants me to be a loving Christian grandfather. My grandchildren saw my affinity with the Church and they tried to respond to it. A favourite spot for my grandchildren to visit is the grotto outside the church. They like to leave flowers there for him. They call the grotto "Jesus' little house."
There is the encouragement in the knowledge that I can turn a new leaf. Future visits can be used to teach them a love for God with all their heart, soul and mind and to love their neighbour as themselves; that is the priority by which we must live. The dividends of keeping one's first love for Jesus is that he teaches us to love people in our lives more perfectly.
Do you have an earthly love that you have placed ahead of God? Do possessions, career, leisure, love of family distract you from a first love for Christ? Is there something that you have given a higher priority than absolute devotion to Jesus?
Get rid of the distractions and focus on Christ.
Then watch the blessings flow.
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