George was a three-and-a-half-year-old inquisitive half-pint. When his parents brought him to church, he had to clench his tiny fists atop the backrest of the pew in front of him and stand on tippy toes to see the activities and goings on at the altar. He was well-behaved because there was plenty of movement in the sanctuary to hold his attention.
He enjoyed going to Mass. The reverberating bells and waxy smells intrigued him. Dropping coins in the collection basket made him feel like one of the big kids. And in between the singing and processions he could take a comfortable nap while the priest preached to the grownups from the pulpit. Mom with beads between fingers and dad with eyes shut and lips forming silent words knelt comfortably on either side of their son repeating prayers he was trying to learn by heart. The statue of a lifeless man nailed to a cross dominated the main wall and below his bleeding feet was a bright yellow box, the centered focal point of the entire building. Servers lit candles on either side of it and genuflected every time they passed in front of it. “That's where God lives,” his parents whispered.
George was as curious as any growing preschooler could be. But he could not figure out how God was able to hear his prayers without ever leaving church or those lustrous little confines. How any person could possibly fit inside that cube was incomprehensible to his developing logic. He recalled seeing a dollhouse his great-uncle had built for the young girls in his family. He was fascinated by the tales of their imaginary tea parties and he had seen first-hand their careful dusting and rearranging of the miniature furniture pieces from the backside of each easily accessible floor.
The youngster's mind began to wonder. Did God have such tiny fixtures inside his golden house? Did the Maker of the universe come out of that miniscule domicile and walk up and down the aisles when the church was empty and dark? Did God vacuum rugs, do dishes, watch TV or have a pet to play with? Every drawing he had seen of Jesus pictured Him wearing sandals, so George surmised God never had to learn to tie shoelaces-a chore he himself had yet to master. It wasn't till five years later, when George became an altar server, that he learned God's cramped quarters were locked. There was a matching gold key to its solitary entrance; a door that could only be opened from the outside!
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as it turns out, are not only one God but also one very willing prisoner to human beings. People hold the key that unlocks captured love. Only we can let God out and into our personal world by our thoughts and words and deeds. Otherwise this Creator of infinite community remains isolated and in solitary confinement. Why would the God who made us decide to be at the mercy of our will and whim? The answer to that theological question is a profound mystery. The more practical query is, what virtuous key can we fashion that will open the tabernacle and release God's grace into the world where we live and move and have our being?
For Holy Homework: For the next 30 days, let's attach a set of spare keys near the door we use most often to enter and exit our home. And on a piece of paper taped beside them let's write this constant reminder: What key can I use today to let God out of the box?
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