Babies are very special. No matter what kind of mood I’m in or what mischief the older children have perpetrated, I always seem to have a smile for the baby. The fresh innocence and complete dependence, the absolute trustfulness, all which are expressed so eloquently by a pair of bright, curious eyes, somehow irresistibly draw me out of my world and into the simple but wondrous world of babyhood.
I love watching babies. I feel that there is so much we can learn from them. When a baby tries to do something and is thwarted and suddenly begins crying and screaming in frustration, I wonder if that is how I appear in God’s eyes when things don’t go my way and I too quickly become discouraged. Do my sighs and complaints seem as ridiculous to God as my little one’s little tantrums do to me?
But I think I can learn even more about God when I reflect on my own reactions to a baby. I remember when my daughter Carmella was just beginning to walk by herself, at first she would take a single, almost infinitesimal step, with her foot barely leaving the ground. But no matter how tiny her first steps were, I would always clap and cheer her on with the utmost excitement. And when Carmella first lifted her chin, and with a wide open mouth and tongue hanging out, attempted to bestow on me her first kiss, I was thrilled. Discreetly wiping the moisture from my cheek, I thanked her with unbounded enthusiasm and hugged her ardently. These tiny tokens of progress and of responsiveness touched my heart just as deeply as the much more sophisticated and articulate expressions of love from my older, more mature children.
This is, I think, how Our Lord views our own tiny efforts at prayer. Like a devoted mother, He loves each of us so tenderly that even the slightest movement of our hearts to Him is precious in His eyes, and He rewards even the slightest token of our love with an outpouring of grace. I think this is why so many short prayers have, in the past, been rewarded with what might seem to be disproportionately generous indulgences; because Holy Mother Church knows that Our Lord, in His love for us, so dearly appreciates even the briefest lifting of our hearts and minds to Him that He wants to reward us. Sometimes we think of Him as a stern Judge, ready to pounce on us for every small infraction. Of course, He does punish us, in His justice, for our sins. We, too, immediately punish a toddler who has touched an outlet or bitten a sibling. But, like any loving parent, He is saddened by the necessity of punishment and is much more eagerly vigilant in watching for signs that our hearts are turning toward Him.
We can learn so much from babies. Their very dependence on us and their tremendous ignorance of the ways of the world remind us, in a small way, of our own dependence on God and the smallness of our understanding in comparison to His omniscience. If only we could learn to trust in His goodness as completely as a sleepy baby trusts in the mother who holds him in her arms!