I’ve read some forwarded emails about kids’ comments and questions about God. I found them all amusing but inwardly thought that some very creative writers must have cooked them up. I realized today, however, how endearing and innocent children actually are when they talk about God.
I was scouring the food court of Shang with my nephew Miko (now 5 years old! How fast time flies), looking for his favorite buko juice, when he asked me a question out of the blue. “Tita Ella, why is God on the cross?” This caught me off-guard. I do not have a direct hand in the Christian formation of my nephews as I leave it to their parents and teachers to do that. I am happy to be their playmate, driver, and yaya but I’m the type of Tita who returns the babies to their mommies for nappy change and avoids having to answer earth-shaking questions as much as possible. J I do not feel qualified to teach them these things because in the past, I gave them very complicated answers and received a lecture from their father (my Kuya) about it. Somehow my being “active” in Lingkod have made my friends think that I’d make the perfect godmother and they’ve passed on to me difficult, and sometimes amusing, questions their kids have asked about religion. I’ve always felt inadequate and unarmed for those questions.
I looked at Miko who was holding my hand and waiting for an intelligent answer. I replied, “It was Jesus who was on the cross, baby, and he did that to show us all that God is more powerful than the cross and death and all kinds of pain.”
He asked, “But how is God stronger than the cross? How is he strong?” Time for quick thinking, Ella, and I thought of speaking in a language my Cartoon-Network-raised nephew would appreciate. “God is very strong, He’s the most powerful person of all! Did you know that Jesus healed the sick? He made the blind see. He cured the lepers (oh no, I thought next thing I’d have to explain leprosy, but he let that pass. Something else caught his attention). And one time, He walked on water!”
“Jesus can walk on water? Can He make us walk on water???”, I could see that his interest was picking. “Yes, of course! St. Peter was also able to walk on water.” Thankfully, I stopped myself from adding that San Pedro also sank after removing his eyes from the Lord and that I could relate to that experience big time, otherwise my brother would complain that I’ve planted too many grownup things in the boy’s head without explaining them properly. “Above the water and not under???” He asked again in disbelief. “Yup!” I replied, so proud once more of Jesus my Hero.
Then he turned to me, “Can Jesus make me fly?” Now that was a familiar question! As I was growing up reading about The New Mutants and The X-Men, I asked God also why He didn’t allow me to fly, which to me was the coolest power aside from reading minds. Today when I think of Heaven I imagine myself flying too. But to a five-year old, I needed a simpler answer which I wasn’t sure I had. I said, “Well I think Jesus CAN make us fly, but He’d only do that if He thought it would be for our own good.”
“Why are you asking me these things?” I questioned him while I was paying for the buko juice which we finally found at the other end of the food court. “Because I saw the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and I was very afraid…” Now that movie was definitely not kid-friendly! I loved it and wrote about it last April but it was not something I would recommend for kids.
“Miko, don’t worry, diba in the ending Jesus was alive again without blood in his body and He was able to rise up?” I got worried how those bloody images affected him. I made a mental note to beg, borrow or even buy a Children’s Illustrated Bible or Bible Encyclopedia for him and his Kuya Luigi. They would have to learn the bible stories the way I appreciated them when I was their age – using beautiful pictures. I also had single aunts who were Catechists and who patiently explained the bible stories to me. The wheel has indeed turned… am I that single aunt now? Well this isn’t the sharing for that issue, haha.
Miko whispered, “I wasn’t very afraid, Tita Ella. I didn’t finish the whole movie. I just saw parts of it. But I remember that Jesus cut off the soldier's ear.”
"Noo, it was St. Peter who cut off the man's ear, and Jesus put it back. Like magic." I attempted to explain. With that we returned to the table to join our family. Miko happily told his kuya that I told him that Jesus could walk on water.
Luigi (the 7-year-old) asked me, “Diba God is the father of Jesus?” Fresh from the NLTC, I wanted to attempt to have a scholarly answer to this but of course realized that I was not qualified to echo Dr. Jake’s lecture on the Trinity; neither was my listener interested in that. “Yes, God is the Father of Jesus. But He’s also Our Father. He’s our Big Father in Heaven!” I triumphantly replied.
“And diba, Tita, Jesus is two thousand and four years old?” Hmmm, tough one, as I was tempted to have a long answer, but to simplify our lives, I simply said, “Yes.”
The ever-competitive Miko asked, “And also God?” I smiled. “No, I think God is much older than Jesus.”
Luigi asked, “How much older? Is God two thousand and seven years old?” This elicited laughter from his parents, my parents, and even the kids themselves.
I had run out of answers. I remember Jake said that Jesus was there from the beginning with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit! How do I explain Him to my nephews? I’ve given the Holy Spirit talks in the CLP but there was no way I could re-tell that for children. Could I wash my hands off that topic too, or would my conscience nag me when the time comes to teach them what I believe to be true? Should I just wait for my own children (which was my mindset before) so I could shape their young minds into the faith that’s growing deep in my heart?
I pray that I could somehow contribute to my nephews’ love for God but as to how, I would have to learn. Meanwhile they remind me of my own questions and how they have evolved through the years. I have discovered that my mind is not enough to contain all there is to know about God and I’m glad for the priests, nuns (whom I refer to as my spiritual aunts and uncles), and Lingkod elders who are around to answer my questions in a language I can understand.