When we examine the spiritual doctrine of St. Therese it becomes clear that although she spoke about childhood and littleness, she does not encourage people to become infantile or ignorant. We could see part of the doctrine of spiritual childhood expressed in today’s Gospel about being messengers of peace. Living the little way of love means bringing the Gospel of peace with us wherever we go. We are not ignorant or unaware of the brokenness of our world and of the hearts of men. We are not surprised that people are violent, mean and hateful. Facing the wolves, however, we are not afraid of what they can do to us. “Fear not the one who can only destroy your body. Fear the one who can cast both body and soul into Gehenna.” We fear only God, but spiritual childhood teaches us to see God as our Father and to trust that He is teaching us how to take the difficult step through death to eternity. The fearlessness we are called to embrace before the peril of the Cross is not military-grade mental or physical toughness – it is the calm and gentle conviction that our Father is lovingly guiding us through death to new life. We can be abandoned to that love no matter how painful life may become. We can continue to be at peace even when others work to destroy peace.
The simplicity of a child bringing joy and peace may be due in part to their being oblivious and innocent. When we obey the commandment to bring peace into whatever house or place we enter, we are fully aware of the real or potential hostility. A spiritual child does not rely on ignorance or innocence – they rely – by faith – on a loving Father.
JULIAN OF ECLANUM:
We desire what we have said with a troubled mind not be confusedly relegated to oblivion as a cause of shame. On the contrary we want what we have said seriously and carefully to be fixed in the memory and remain in the mouth of many people. Therefore also holy Job, intending to show that he had not poured out what he had said with a troubled mind but that his words were truthful and reasonable, wishes that his words are not only written on paper but also engraved on lead and stone, so that they may be preserved for a long time.1
“He will raise up my body that endures these sufferings, for it is the Lord who caused them.” Did Job know the doctrine of resurrection? I believe so, and the doctrine concerning the resurrection of the body, unless he says here that the resurrection that he speaks about is the deliverance from the afflictions that pressed him. That is why, Job says, even after my deliverance, I want my afflictions to be immortal. This is an extremely wise way to keep always before one’s eyes the punishments of God even after they have gone.… “For it is the Lord,” he says, “who caused these sufferings.” Job is correct in saying that the Lord will be the actual cause of his change. “He strikes,” Job says, “and he heals.”2
Our Lord said to his disciples, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but, if not, it will return to you.” …
Since we do not know who is a son of peace, it is our part to leave no one out, to set no one aside, but to desire that all to whom we preach this peace be saved. We are not to fear that we lose our peace if he to whom we preach it is not a son of peace, and we are ignorant of the fact. Our peace will return to us. That means our preaching will profit us, not him. If the peace we preach rests upon him, it will profit both him and us.3
EPHREM THE SYRIAN:
“Shake off the dust of your feet” shows that he will require vengeance on those who receive the disciples poorly. The disciples will throw back on these people that very dust which adhered to them from the path. They will return it back on them, so that these might learn that those who pass through their paths will return by them. Since these received the dust of the just, they will merit the vengeance of the just, unless they repent. Only their dust defiled them, not their mire. It will be easier for Sodom, because the angels who went there did not perform a sign in Sodom but made Sodom itself a sign for creation. …
Move to another city away from whatever town that does not receive you. If they persecute you in that one, flee to another. The Lord did not extend this word to everyone, but only to his disciples because it was the beginning of the new preaching, and these people were few.4
- EXPOSITION ON THE BOOK OF JOB 19:23–24 Simonetti, M., & Conti, M. (Eds.). (2006). Job (p. 105). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON JOB 19:25–26. Simonetti, M., & Conti, M. (Eds.). (2006). Job (p. 106). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ADMONITION AND GRACE 15.46. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 172). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON TATIAN’S DIATESSARON 8.6–7. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 173). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Beautiful Fr. Francis. You explained St. Thérèse’s doctrine very clearly. “A spiritual child does not rely on ignorance or innocence – they rely – by faith – on a loving Father.” Yes! I love that!