Readings (Year C):
Reflection: A child’s wisdom
My two-year-old-nephew got me through a difficult time in the middle of my doctorate program. During this time, I was in a constant state of anxiety because I was afraid that I was going to fail. I was exhausted and completely drained. Then I went home to be with my family for Christmas. All I wanted to do was stay at home and spend time with my little nephew. However, I did not feel like I could time off to rest. So, every day I went to the public library to work on my dissertation.
My nephew knew that I went to the library every day to work. One morning he asked me what I do for work at the library. Too exhausted to explain an academic program to a toddler, I answered, “Auntie Kate reads books and writes stuff.”
He paused for a moment. Then he very seriously responded, “Why do you read books and write stuff?” I was stunned and speechless. I had no answer for him. I had forgotten why I was pursuing a doctoral degree in the first place. All I could see was my own fear of failure.
My nephew’s question lived in the back of my mind that day. I was troubled that I could not answer it. So, I decided to rest for the first time in two years. The next day I stayed home. I watched television with my mother and played Yahtzee with my grandmother. My father, brother, and I played cards. I read books to my nephew. Little by little, I felt calmer and lighter. I returned to university feeling rested and with a renewed sense of purpose. All of this came to pass thanks to a poignant question from a small child.
Our gospel today is one with which many of us are familiar. We often relate to Mary and Joseph in this story and the fear they must have felt as they searched for their son (Luke 2:44–45). However, I often think of the teachers and people in the synagogue. They did not know who Jesus was or who he would become. He was simply a young boy to them. Yet they recognized that this child had wisdom, and they listened to him (Luke 2:47).
Children can surprise us. They grow and change every day, revealing their unique gifts and sharing their wisdom with us. From the teens who are calling our attention to climate change, to the littles ones who, like my nephew, encourage us to confront difficulties in our lives, children have so much to teach us. Like the teachers in the synagogue with Jesus, we should take the time to listen to them and engage with them. If we do so with humility, gentleness, and patience (Col. 3:12) the children in our lives may just help us transform into the people God has called us to be.