Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Why don’t you grow up?
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the Jan. 17, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
There are certain phrases in the English language which, when spoken at the right moment, seem to have the particular ability to draw us up short. They hit home, sticking the heart with their truth. We may not like to hear them, but their utterance forces decisions about attitudes or behavior. Foremost among such phrases are the two words: Grow up!
Interestingly, these words always are used in the context of challenge. They are spoken most powerfully in circumstances when someone is acting below a level of expected maturity.
The phrase is a curious one. Its use is based on the presumption that infancy and childhood – regardless how care-free and wonderful these stages of human growth may be – are not where a person is to spend the entirety of their lives. From the moment of conception we human beings are destined to grow up, to mature physically, emotionally and spiritually. When someone tries to shirk from that stark reality and not take responsibility for their personal journey of life, we dart them with the challenge to “grow up!”
There are times when we all either want to or actually do resist the call to mature and take responsibility for our lives. Discipleship with Jesus is a vivid reminder, however, that we properly engage in life by growing up. We avoid maturing at our own spiritual peril. We cannot remain infants or children.
In its liturgical wisdom, the Church reminds us of this fact each cycle of the liturgical seasons. Just recently we quietly passed from Christmas festivities back into “ordinary time.” At Christmas it was relatively easy and emotionally thrilling to identify with Jesus, the Baby in Bethlehem’s manger. There is something about babies that captures our hearts. They appear to be little works of miraculous art. We stand in awe and wonder, subconsciously wishing that they would never change, never grow up.
We imagine that the gift of life is static, something to be admired and made the object of endearment. But life does go on. Babies grow up. How often have we heard a subtle expression of disappointment that someone’s child had grown up “so fast.” It’s almost as if we did not expect it to happen.
Yet life is designed for growth. When the Word of God became incarnate, that Word shared in the fullness of our human condition. Jesus did not just live with us. In every way Jesus was one of us, sharing the intimate dynamics of the human growth and maturation. In so doing He certainly must have known the temptation to stay put, to not grow and not embrace the challenge of being true to himself and the mystery of grace experienced at the center of his being.
In an imaginary portrait of Jesus’ hidden life in Nazareth – which is nurtured more by piety than fact – we somehow cannot picture Mary or Joseph ever having had to tell Jesus to “grow up!” No one knows what happened behind those closed doors in Nazareth, but Jesus did grow up. If we do not always find it easy to do, perhaps neither did he. The baby Jesus matured into a small child, into adolescence, young adulthood and then adulthood.
The miracle of the Word Incarnate did not remain an infant. Our salvation is not found in the cooing of a babe, but in the embrace of a grown man who freely and conscientiously followed his calling, even to the Cross, so that we would be freed from all that is subhuman about us, especially our sin, and thereby find true and everlasting life.
The growth and maturation of Jesus is part and parcel of God’s plan of redemption . Our sharing in that plan, our walk of discipleship, is no less. We, too, must grow up. We, too, must walk responsibly before the face of God, emptying ourselves in loving service to one another. When we shirk from that challenge and responsibility, perhaps it would be quite appropriate for someone to tell us to “Grow up!”
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)