Last week we were invited to take a closer look at what drives us, what prompts us to do the things we do – fear or love! If we are filled with hatred for someone or something then our lives are being driven by fear. If we are filled with care and compassion then our lives are being driven by love!
Today in our first reading from the second Book of Kings, we continue the story of Elisha. In the time of Elisha to have children was seen as a blessing from God. Not to have children, to be barren, was like a curse from God. Likewise, wealth was seen as a blessing, an affirmation that you were a righteous person. While this woman was a kind and righteous person, she lacked the ultimate blessing, children.
Elisha, who has been the recipient of the hospitality of this rich woman and her husband, seeks to bless her. When he discovers that she is childless, he calls her and promises that she will embrace a son. This despite their advanced age.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter ten contains various events and sayings around what it means to be a disciple – a follower of Jesus. The disciples are sent out on mission and Jesus instructs them on what a disciple does and does not do. They don’t use family relationships or commitments as an excuse not to pay attention to God – to act as a disciple. Jesus highlights the importance of letting go of things that we hold dear/cling to so that we can live out the commandment of love. Hospitality is important and our acts of hospitality bring with them blessings. Being hospitable to the poor literally transforms our lives.
Paul speaks to the Romans about baptism. He reminds them that when we are baptized – we are baptized into the death and new life of Christ. What that means concretely is that we die to sin – we literally turn away from sin and we choose to do those things that are life giving. Our fundamental orientation directs us to do only those things which are good and life giving. While we might sin from time to time, we no longer choose sin as a pathway for our lives. Sin is no longer the dominating force in our lives – love is; life is!
This week I baptized a child. Because of the virus there was his mom and dad and his family and me – the parish community was absent. Despite the small numbers this child was baptized into the Church, the Body of Christ.
He does not yet, really know God!
He does not yet, really know that he belongs to the Body of Christ!
He does not yet really know how to pray!
He does not yet really know what sin is!
He does not yet know what he is to do with his life!
How will he come to know God? How will he come to know and appreciate the blessings of God, the call to follow God, the difference between sin and grace, the importance of love and hospitality, the meaning and purpose of his life? He will rely first and foremost on his family. Secondly, he will rely on the parish community. If his parents don’t teach him then the journey he began this week will be a difficult one! If the parish does nothing to support the family then the journey he began this week will be a difficult one!
What we as adults do and don’t do has a huge impact on the children we baptize. Our children learn lots of things from us – we are teaching them intentionally and unintentionally!
Over 30 years ago I walked my little niece to school after lunch. She was in grade one. As I walked her to the door of the school we passed some of her classmates. One little boy was punching his classmate over and over again. It was a Catholic school, I am a priest, one kid was getting beaten up and nobody was doing anything and my niece was concerned. I suggested he stop. He turned to me as defiant as could be and began to swear using words that I am pretty sure he did not learn from his teacher in the classroom.
Did his family sit down and teach him those words? Probably not! But he heard them somewhere!
When we spread rumors, when we repeat gossip, when we share information that is not true, when we shame or belittle people, when we use verbal, emotional or physical abuse we are teaching our children, our society how to live.
When we forgive, when we are patient, when we care for the poor, when we respect people who are different, when we are curious, when we seek to learn, when we seek to settle conflicts with dignity and honor, when we make room for opinions that are different from the ones we hold we are teaching our children, our society how to live.
Our birth marks the beginning of our human life and it is a wonderful thing. Our baptism marks the beginning of our Christian journey and it is a wonderful thing. Our founder St. Eugene de Mazenod says that we have three tasks. We are to teach people to be human, we are to teach people to be Christian and we are to teach people to be saints.
Whether we have just been Confirmed, whether we are just finishing high school, whether we are getting married, having our first child or becoming grandparents – the things we say on Facebook, in person, in the Church, in the school, at work, at the lake – they have an impact on others and they shape the color of our lives, the color of our faith. We are disciples 24/7. We are responsible for one another.
In our first reading the old couple provided a meal, they provided shelter for a stranger and they recognized him as a holy man. In the gospel, Jesus emphasized the importance of not making excuses for those times we have chosen to forget about God and about our poor neighbour. Paul reminds us that we are baptized – we choose life and love not sin and death.
As this week unfolds let us pay attention to what we choose – what do our words and actions say about what we value? What are our words and actions teaching our children? What are we doing to shape the lives of our children as people, as Christians and as saints?
Today, June 28th is the feast day of St. Irenaeus of Smyrna (Bishop and Martyr)! He is famous for saying, “the Glory of God is the human person fully alive!” When we are fully alive we love others as Christ has loved us! Take some time to notice the fierce love Jesus has for you and for your family!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI