Francis Fernandez

Children of God (The life of spiritual childhood preached by Saint Josemaría)


God is especially Father when dispensing mercy in response to our repeated failings. Even when ours are major failures (for we will always have little ones), “we will never hesitate to react and return to the sure path of divine filiation that ends up in the open and welcoming arms of our Father God.” (Saint Josemaría) And conversant with our wretchedness, we will say with the simplicity of little children: Lord, “allow yourself to be taken in by this child of yours, just like those good fathers, full of kindness, who put into the hands of their little children the presents they want to receive from them – knowing perfectly well that little children have nothing of their own. And what joy father and child have together, even though they are both in on the secret.” (Saint Josemaría)

Thus the path of spiritual infancy is also a good way to grow in filiation. We will always be helped along by God, even carried in his arms, though many times we will try to take our own steps, however awkward and prone to falls. “In our interior life it does all of us good to be quasi modo geniti infantes, like those tiny tots who seem to be made of rubber and who even enjoy falling over because they get up again right away and are once more running around, and also because they know their parents will always be there to console them, whenever they are needed.

“If we try to act like them, our stumbling and failures in the interior life (which, moreover, are inevitable) will never result in bitterness. Our reaction will be one of sorrow but not discouragement, and we’ll smile with a smile that gushes up like fresh water out of the joyous awareness that we are children of that love, that grandeur, that infinite wisdom, that mercy, that is our Father. During the years I have been serving our Lord, I have learned to become like a little child of God. I would ask you to do likewise, to be quasi modo geniti infantes, children who long for God’s word, his bread, his food, his strength, to enable us to behave henceforth as Christian men and women.” (Saint Josemaría)

To live with this simplicity we must keep two realities in mind: God’s paternal goodness and our mistake-prone weakness. We will blame our falls neither on circumstances nor on the impossibility of doing otherwise; we must accept responsibility for our misdeeds. So, we are to be humble, seeing ourselves as weak and ever in need of help and forgiveness.

How saving is sincerity: “the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:32), said the Teacher. On the other hand, deceit, duplicity, and falsehood quickly lead to separation from God and to the absence of charitable fruits. The psalmist exclaimed: “My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (32:4)

The root of insincerity is pride, which prevents us from submitting to God, from acknowledging our dependence on him and his will. It also makes it very difficult for us to admit that we have done wrong and to set things right. If insincerity persists, our dispositions sour along with our objectivity. A soul out to dismiss its faults becomes an expert at making excuses. If not avoided, this flirting with falsehood turns into blindness. We consequently need a humble attitude to grow in sincere self-knowledge and to confess our sins and weaknesses. Humility leads us to accept the most radical self-insufficiency and to beg God for forgiveness many times a day for the misdeeds in our life or for those that could have gone better.

“Serious falls, of the kind that can do great damage to the soul, at times almost irreparable damage, can always be traced back to the pride of thinking oneself to be grown up and self-sufficient. In such cases, people seem almost incapable of asking for help from those who can give it: not only from God, but also from a friend or from a priest. And the poor soul, alone in its misfortune, sinks into confusion and loses its way.” (Saint Josemaría) So, then “don’t try to be older. A child, always a child, even when you are dying of old age. When a child stumbles and falls, nobody is surprised; his father promptly picks him up. When the person who stumbles and falls is older, the immediate reaction is one of laughter. Sometimes, after this first impulse, the laughter gives way to pity. But older people have to get up by themselves.

“Your sad experience is that each day is full of stumbles and falls. What would become of you if you were not continually more of a child? Don’t try to be older. Be a child, and when you stumble, may your Father God pick you up by the hand.” (Saint Josemaría) How we need God, and if we let him, he always acts in us, even more so when he sees our awareness of our weakness.

If sometimes it seems as if everything is collapsing about us because we have not behaved as God’s children, let us hear the kind reproach of Saint Josemaría: “But, have you once again forgotten that God is your Father? – all-powerful, infinitely wise, and full of mercy.”

If we were to feel especially disheartened by some spiritual ailment that seems incurable, let us not forget that we are God’s small children. Then too let us remember Jesus’ consoling words: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mt 9:12). Everything has its remedy. God is always very close to us, especially when our wretchedness and misdeeds loom.