Monday, May 5, 2008

Meditation on the Ascension

Excerpts from discussion among 8- and 9-year olds and their catechist:

We had been meditating on the message of the men in white, after Jesus was taken into heaven, that the apostles would see Jesus again; and on Jesus’ message that only the Father knew the time when Jesus would “restore the kingdom to Israel.”

Dawson asked: “When was the first time God was on the earth so that people could see him?”

Nick: “I think it was on Christmas when Jesus was born.”

Dawson: “But what about when He did the plagues in Egypt?” [Caleb seemed to be indicating that his question pertained not just to the Incarnation of God as Christ, but to visible manifestations of God on earth through time.]

Greta said: “He appeared in the burning bush.”
Cole said: “I think this is the first time God appeared on earth,” and brought a picture of Mary praying during the event of the Annunciation.

The catechist asked: “Do you think it would be easier, more understandable, to recognize God in the burning bush or to see Him as the shepherds did at the crib in Bethlehem?”

Greta immediately responded: “In the burning bush. For the shepherds, it was just a baby and how could they be sure that it wasn’t like any other baby? But a burning bush is something that no one else would ever have seen.” [Greta seemed to mean that the burning bush was so unique in comparison with a human child that it would be easier to recognize God in something so out-of-the-ordinary.]

Bianca said: “Adam and Eve saw God in the garden.” Others mentioned the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary as a way to see God.

There followed some discussion on these various experiences of God’s presence among us. The catechist then tried to clarify Dawson’s original question: “Are you wondering when God appeared for the first time on earth as a real person that we could see and hear and touch?” Dawson said yes. The catechist said, “That was Jesus.”

Then, Una asked, “How did God know to choose Jesus?”

The catechist said, “Let’s listen to what John says at the beginning of his gospel:
In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God,
And the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
Who do you think the Word could be?” The children responded, “Jesus.”

The catechist said, “Now let’s listen again but let’s substitute the name ‘Jesus’ for the ‘Word.’
After re-reading the passage in this manner, Una simply said, “Oh, that makes sense.”

But then Dawson returned again to the root of his questioning: “But when did God the Father first appear on earth to people?”

The catechist offered an explanation: “God came to earth as Jesus, who is God the Son. God the Father appeared on earth in human form as God the Son. God the Father and God the Son are the same God, but different persons in the one God.”

Dawson responded: “But how can that be? That doesn’t make sense.”

Greta offered this explanation: “Humans get an illusion that it’s impossible because there is nothing on earth like it. Our words cannot explain it because the way we’ve been raised up with words, words cannot explain Jesus, no words on earth can explain Jesus. You just have to forget about words on earth and listen to words in the Bible. The only way I can think of knowing it is we have different parts of our body – all different parts, but the same body. They are all part of us, one person.”

Lina said: “We’ll know in heaven.”

Nick said: “On earth we have the questions; in heaven we will have the answers.”

The catechist suggested closing with a song, and Blake suggested, “That one that talks about God in three persons.” We sang ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ together.

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