March 2, 2015
Pope Francis gave a recent homily for the opening of the year for Consecrated Life. He had great things to say about what it means to be a religious brother or sister, bringing Christ into the world for others. But as I was reading, something else struck me.
In his homily, the Pope used the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus. He explained that, like anyone holding a baby, Jesus is in front of Mary, and she walks behind Him, following. In that way, the Pope explained, Jesus was leading Mary on a path toward God.
I thought this was insightful! As we know, Jesus became one of us and leads us to God. But it’s something new for me to think about Him leading us as an innocent infant. I know that one could have profound meditation on this idea.
As I continued to think about it, I wondered: how does the same concept apply to newborn babies today? How does this apply to me holding and carrying my own baby?
Of course, we know that our little babies aren’t Christ, and so the situation is different in that way. But at the same time, we hold them in front of us. We follow them down a path. Their path is of complete innocence. Their path is of simplicity and trust in their caregiver.
When Jesus said that we must become like little children, I suppose this is partially what he was talking about—living simply and trusting in our caregiver, God. I guess it never occurred to me that children aren’t only examples of how to be holy, they literally teach us how to be holier. They teach us while we care for them.
Through carrying them in front of us, we learn how to put others first. We learn how to serve our baby before ourselves. We learn more about sacrificial love—denying oneself for another. The late-night feedings, thousands of diapers, and last-minute changes of plans all teach us how to put our own desires aside and instead serve others.
This service is something that we’ve heard before from Pope Frank. He is constantly encouraging his flock to serve others, to help the poor, to reach out. And here, he brings it home, literally, by using yet another example in our everyday lives. It just goes to show that his desire for us to serve others can be done in a million different ways each day!
Interesting how God designed adults to learn so much from innocent babes. And He decided to be the child to lead his own mother Mary to holiness, so that we might follow in her footsteps. As a married person with a new baby, I know that I am experiencing exactly what Pope Frank is trying to tell us, only I didn’t realize it so much before.
When I began writing this article, I never expected it to be more about the vocation of marriage and children than about the vocation of consecrated life. But then again, I suppose that’s part of the beauty of the two vocations. They mirror each other and have so much insight about the opposite vocation. That’s why we need both. But then I suppose that’s a topic for another day.