Sunday, September 25, 2016

Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Whoever Receives This Child

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." Then John said in reply, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company." Jesus said to him, "Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you."


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come to you this morning needing your strength and help. The vocation you have given me is awesome, but I am weak. Come to help me. Never let me feel alone and unaided. I know that you are with me.


Petition: Lord Jesus, strengthen all families and grant parents a deeper faith and perseverance.


1. The Parent’s Adventure. Being a parent isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s a lot tougher. A rocket may malfunction, but it won’t defy you. So when Jesus pronounced this word to his disciples -- “Whoever receives this child…” -- in which he responds to their argument about which of them was the greatest, he could very well have given a discourse on parenting. His disciples needed to learn about humility, and this is the daily bread of good parents. Parents “receive this child in his name.” They don’t pick a “designer” child. They receive the one that the Lord sends them. And then the adventure begins. At all ages and stages -- from the newborn’s hungry cry in the middle of the night to the teen-ager’s complaint that he isn’t trusted, from the titanic battle of wills with the “cute” two-year-old to the taking out of a loan to cover the eldest daughter’s wedding reception --, parenting teaches humility, because no human being can possibly do it right all on their own. Good parents are good because they have learned to depend on God. If the Lord gives a mission, he also gives the grace to carry it out.


<b>2. Fides et Ratio  Faith and reason are the pillars of parenting. Faith is so necessary precisely because it is so challenged. To see Christ in the child who sits reverently in the pew during Mass is easy; to see him in the child who gleefully pushes the guaranteed-reaction button is not. Both require faith, but the ungratifying side of parenthood forces the one seeking to please the Lord to pray more insistently and to seek the grace to not yield to the pressure of human emotions. Reason is necessary as well. A good parent needs a large store of wisdom and prudence, the fruit both of inquiry and experience. As the theological principle puts it, “grace perfects nature, but it does not replace it.” God will not supply for the negligence of someone who doesn’t invest time and effort. A parent doing their beststriving with all their might to take care of the precious souls entrusted to them, will find the Lord always near to support their efforts.


3. The Least Are the GreatestJesus was referring to humble persons, but no doubt felt the same about children: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.” The Christian parent’s attitude about children is the fruit of the Savior’s teaching and example. As the apostles began spreading this message through the Roman Empire, they were flying in the face of a far different view. Consider this fragment from a letter written by a Roman soldier to his wife back home: “As soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. If — good luck to you! — you bear offspring, if it be male, let it live; if it is a female expose it. How can I forget you? I beg you not to worry….” Tender concern blends seamlessly, and repulsively, with a casual death sentence. The new attitude brought by Christ is reflected by Diognetus in his letter to the Emperor: One of the distinctive aspects of Christians was that “they do not expose their infants.” In the Christian view the “least are the greatest,” because they have the greatest claim on our love. They need us the most. The parents of a Down’s syndrome child give a tremendous example of this love. Parents’ commitment to their children, no matter what, is a precious gift to us all: It reminds us of the unconditional love of the Father, who cares for us all, not because we are useful, but because he loves us. 


Dialogue with ChristLord, help me to understand how I have to reflect your love to others. At times I am impatient, angry and full of resentment. Help me to channel my emotions with faith and grace. I hope that I will never give in to my pragmatic streak, seeing people just in terms of their usefulness. Help me to love others as you have loved me.


Resolution:  For parents: I will lead my children to Christby leading family prayers. For others: I will try to lend a hand to a harried parent out of love for Christ.

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