‘God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. ‘
Pope Benedict's address to pupils Sports Arena of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010
On one of the first occasions I walked into a primary class the teacher invited me to talk to the children. I quickly thought, ‘what about?’ After I’m sure was a period of boredom for the children and a cringe for the teacher I finally found my way out.
What then do you say to children? For along time I have listened to other priests and searched endless resource books, all coming up short. The phrase, ‘God loves you’, quickly becomes exhausted. As adults, we struggle with the phrase ‘God loves you’. Pope Benedict recognised this difficulty when at the beginning of his Pontificate he wanted ‘to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man’ (Deus Caritas, 1). If Pope Benedict felt the need to clarify it for the whole of humanity then a way of clarifying it for children has to be found?
There at Twickenham to that particular gathering the words he used gave clarity to those who listened. We, the grown ups, could do well to listen to this simple message because we are the people who muddy the waters in which this message finds life.
We do this when we fail to recognise the necessary end of merit and the beginning of pure gift and acceptance. ‘You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you’ (Mark 1:9-11), these are words that rip open heaven and we are miserly in their use. To break free from this we ourselves have to dismantle the need to achieve God’s love. Once this occurs our life becomes what it truly should be, a response.
We will see the hungry and respond, the stranger and respond, the naked and respond, the sick and respond, the prisoner and respond. With these good deeds going before us our hope is that He too will respond at the favourable time.