Sunday, September 23
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 9: 30 – 37
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Today’s Gospel can make us wince at the end. Any talk about children and the Christian faith during this year that Catholic commentator George Weigel has dubbed annus horribilis 2018 can make us instinctively steel ourselves for more horrible news. But today’s Gospel in fact reinforces the importance of the steps the Church has taken in the past decade and a half to ensure a safe environment for God’s children.
The often-complained about requirement for our volunteers to undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting; the inconvenient school and religious education start and dismissal procedures; the onerous requirement of having two adults present when only a couple of children are involved in a Church activity — it is in a year like this that we remember why these things are needed.
It is also a year in which we can be hopeful that the mandated training for laity and clergy on identifying child abuse and abusers will also help us protect children in those places that are not in the headlines but where abuse occurs with shocking statistical regularity. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 30% of abusers are family members, while another 60% are close acquaintances of the child or family. This means that a shocking 90% of all abuse cases involve someone that the child already knows and likely trusts. And if we have found such evil acts in the Church of Christ, one shudders to think what is occurring in other institutions or organizations with no mandated training or screening safeguards of any sort.
St. Augustine wrote that God is so powerful that He can make Good come out of even the Evil that Men do. So we need to pray and trust that God can bring about a Church that will for centuries to come not only be a safe place for children, but a Church that will also be in the forefront of efforts to protect all children, wherever they may be, from the atrocity of child sexual abuse. Jesus reminds us again and again not only how important children are for their own sakes as human persons, but how important their instinctive, pure, and clear-eyed Faith is as an example for us jaded and cynical adults. As Our Lord taught so well, only when we truly love, cherish, and protect children can we adults fully realize how much we are loved, cherished, and protected by a loving personal God, the Creator and Father of us all.
Father Matthew Morris