31 Aug 2008
“‘You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do.’” (Matt. 16:23)
Fr. Randy Calvo
In the name …
Today is Youth Sunday throughout the church. We pray for the young people of our various parishes, and for all children and youth for that matter, because all of them are the beloved children of God. We pray that our church may minister to them effectively and lovingly. We pray that their homes be filled with love and with faith. Children come into the world helpless and utterly dependent, and because of this they are so susceptible to all that is evil and dangerous in the world, and at the same time because of this very fact they are our greatest responsibility whether they are 2 years old or 12. Jesus said if you harm a child it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea. He didn’t say this about His child; He said this about all children. And Jesus’ example then becomes ours. This is why today we pray for our youth and accept your donations for the Youth Fund of the church so that we can better minister to them, to all of them.
Children can be unashamedly forthright in the lessons they learn. A child comes up to the priest who is greeting the congregation at the door after Mass. The little one tries to give the priest a dollar. The priest politely tells him to maybe put it in the collection basket instead. The child insists on giving the dollar to the priest. Again the priest offers that maybe it could go into the Youth Fund collection. The child insists on the priest. How about putting it into the St. Jude’s Hospital jug? No way, the child insists on giving it to the priest. Finally, the priest asks the child why he’s so insistent on giving him the dollar, to which the child responds, “My daddy says you’re the poorest preacher we’ve ever had.” Kids are always listening, learning and imitating. This is why today we pray for families and churches that set a good example for them, that care for them, nurture and respect them, and bring them to God.
We pray for the spiritual welfare of our youth today because it’s sad to say but many children today are left spiritually orphaned. They don’t have examples of faith and God in their homes, and they’re not brought to church to find God there either. How terrible it is that for many children they grow up associating the name God with anger and swears rather than with the awe of worship and the closeness of prayer. What we do and don’t do, what we say and don’t say, is molding the soul of our children. I’m now getting to the age when I have to start thinking about Kristin learning how to drive. Who would be stupid enough to just give a teenager car keys and tell them to go figure it out for themselves? And more than a few people have said that it’s not the best thing to teach your own son or daughter how to drive because you pass on to them your own mistakes. Hoping that they can figure it out themselves or that you can do it all alone with them is not the best way to get a 16 year old ready for the road. Why then would we imagine that ignoring religious practice in a young person’s life so that they can figure it out on their own, or just passing on to them our own untested individual feelings about faith rather than participating in a community of faith will in any way be sufficient to help young people come to grips with their ideas about God? So today we pray for the young that they may be spiritually nurtured in their homes and by their churches so that they are not left spiritually orphaned.
For young people the lessons of faith begin not with sermons or with Sunday School teachers, but by the example in the home. That’s why a child or young person can be spiritually orphaned. The family can ignore how important they are in nurturing the soul. An article was just published this week about how children grow to be more generous as they get older. (Nature 9/2008) 3 year olds, it was discovered, are almost completely selfish, but by the age of 8 they have learned to be more generous because they have learned to be more empathetic. We can’t blame the 3 year old because their world is limited to their own body at that age. Their minds have not yet developed to the point where they can put themselves in another person’s place and situation. So we can’t call a 3 year old’s selfishness a sin because they really have no choice in the matter. Their brains haven’t developed to the point where sharing becomes a real choice, a moral choice. And as our children grow in those formative years, as their brains are prepared to take in more and more information and process it in a moral way, they learn from the examples of those closest to them. All of those lessons from parents about sharing, all of those times when three cookies were divided between two kids so that each got one and half, all of those times when a child was encouraged to share with a brother, sister or friend, all of those examples help to form the mind of child and to create a moral, healthy, well-adjusted young person.
And as it is with morality, so it is with spirituality. The child will develop spiritually based on the examples they see and hear. Count God, church and prayer important in the home and the child starts to count God, church and prayer important. Ignore them or treat them as less than important and so will the child. Parents show an obvious concern for the moral development of their children. No parent wants to hear that their child is selfish, and they put a great deal of effort into teaching them to share. Why isn’t it as important to care for the spiritual development of a child? It’s not easy coming to grasp with who God is or His place in our lives. Just think back to this morning’s Gospel selection about Jesus’ rebuke of Peter: “‘You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do.’” If Peter, the one last week proclaimed by Jesus as the rock of His church, could be confused and mistaken by what God expects, then why would we be surprised to think that a child or young person needs all the help we can give them in the home and in the church to try and figure out their faith, their spirituality? This Youth Sunday let us pray for all young people, and let us follow-up our prayers by giving them the examples of our own lives so that they may see and learn of God. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. +