Sept. 30 | Adults, society should teach children right from wrong
A common observation among elementary school teachers is that young children are suffering from the loss of their childhood. The point of that insight is that children are exposed at young ages to the peculiarities and vulgarities of society. In a very significant way they have lost the innocence of childhood.
The consequences of this loss of innocence are multifaceted and run deep within society. Minus the intellectual, emotional and psychological capacities to understand, filter and discern these experiences, they are quick to repeat or imitate them, often leading to even more dangerous and threatening situations and results.
While the physical and emotional damage that can be done to children is incalculable, it is the moral and spiritual danger that is the focus of Jesus’ warning in the Gospel passage for the 26th Sunday of the Year.
We must be steadfast in guaranteeing that children are not led into immoral and sinful acts or patterns of thinking and living as the result of the sinfulness of adults. It would be better, Jesus states, for them to tie a millstone around their necks and be cast into the sea. As usual, Jesus is clearly defining the urgency of our moral obligations.
While the entertainment media seems to celebrate questionable and sinful attitudes and behaviors in programming designed even for the youngest children, it is often just the careless and thoughtless words and actions of the loving adults in their lives who inflict the most damage on them on a daily basis.
While we tend to focus much of our attention on those who cause overt and direct abuse to children, it is really the more subtle and insidious forms of scandal that ought to draw our attention and justifiable rebuke.
To a major extent, the greatest moral affliction that is imposed upon our children is moral relativism. The rejection of objective moral norms and the tendency to try and separate actions from their consequences, and consequences from actions, leaves society in a very precarious situation. At some point, moral anarchy must lead to a rejection of any form of objective law.
Similarly, distressing is the covert way in which the news media covers those conflicts around the world that are rooted – even if only tangentially – in some form of religious belief. That we are repulsed by those who use some form of religious extremism as a justification for immoral acts, does not mean that we must cower from the expression of our religious beliefs. We can do tremendous damage to our own faith and beliefs when we fail to uphold and express those beliefs because they might be in conflict with what others believe. Even if we are strong in our belief, the failure to be clear in its expression can easily be seen as and lead to a form of relativism.
The clear admonition from Jesus that we must not lead the “little ones” to sin has broad religious and social consequences.
We must be vigilant – not fanatical – but careful about the messages, images and ideas that our children are subjected to from the many different influences in their lives. We need to offer correctives, explanations and sound advice in their quest to understand the world around them and, most importantly, in understanding their religious faith and obligations.
Jesus makes it all so perfectly clear. Not only is their eternal life at stake but so is ours. Would that none of us ever acted in such a way as to merit having a millstone fastened to our necks and thrown into the sea.
Oct. 7 | Exploring the Sacrament of Marriage on a deeper level
This is a very challenging time in American society regarding the nature and sanctity of marriage. In the Gospel passage for this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus addresses some aspects of the nature of marriage, but in a much deeper way, Jesus is addressing the frailties of human nature.
The focus of the question of the Pharisees to Jesus is over the permission for a man to divorce his wife. There were a number of instances in which Jewish law, as interpreted by the Pharisees, allowed for a man to divorce, though it was not permissible for a woman to divorce her husband. The same is true within strict observances of Jewish law even today. Divorce, Jesus teaches, was permissible because of human weakness and sinfulness, but that it is not to be the practice among his disciples.
In the very act of creation, God intends that human beings live in communion with one another. This realization is certainly not unique to the Jewish people, as every human society has developed along communal lines. While the nature of marriage and the structure of the family has been expressed differently at various times in history and in various ancient cultures, marriage was always seen as the essential core of the family and community bond.
If nothing else, human beings have developed the sophistication of language as the expression of our deepest thoughts, emotions and desires. We are fundamentally dialogical in nature and are capable of communicating in multiple ways. Human children remain incapable of self-sustenance far longer than the offspring of any other species. We require a family to nurture us and to teach us the multifaceted necessary social and personal skills to survive within the complex structure of human society. Human beings are oriented towards the family unit.
The question is then can we break that unity and strike off on our own at attempt to form another similar bond within another family unit. While we might be conflicted emotionally – and we all know of situations where the maintenance of a marriage is untenable – our intellect and memory mitigate against such a separation. Shared experiences, common memories, the natural bonding that comes from personal and especially sexual interaction, draw us towards one another instead of driving us apart from one another.
Jesus is basically challenging us to elevate our humanity from the narcissistic focus that demands immediate satisfaction to focus on the other, where we sacrifice with and for one another through the complexities of life.
We are called to marriage, not for self-satisfaction or the aggrandizement of our own egos, but in order to form the one flesh and to build up human society. In a sense, we marry not so much for ourselves, but for the sake of society as a whole, and ultimately, for the building up of the Kingdom of God.
The deepest crisis of the modern age then, while it might be expressed in the many attempts at redefining marriage as an institution, seems to be more of the on-going struggle with what it really means to be a human being.
Our rejection of marriage, attempts to redefine marriage, the proliferation of divorce and the many sins that are committed within a marriage, stem from the fundamental desire to satisfy ourselves as the first and foremost, with little or no real sense of love, sacrifice or the desire to extend oneself to and for the other.
Jesus calls us to a deeper and more profound sense of being human. It is the universal struggle between the desires to satisfy oneself versus the desire to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the greater good. We are called to share more deeply in the life of the Trinity, the fullest expression of the nature of community.
Rev. Mr. Garry Koch was ordained a transitional deacon in May by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. He expects to be ordained a priest this spring.[[In-content Ad]]