Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Teach the Children to Love
People always say that it is more difficult to be a child or Teen these days than back when they were young. People said that way back when I was young and drugs started dominating lives. They said that when birth control and abortion led many to think that they now had a green light to unbridled sex. They said that a few years later when VCR’s brought porn into many homes. And they say that now as we are facing three epidemics that have become national health crises, addition to opiods, addiction to porn, and, of course, the Covid pandemic.
With all this stated, I want to shock you by telling you that it was easier to be a parent five years ago than it is now. What has changed in the last five years? Anger and hate have become acceptable to some in our society. You see, five years ago parents did not have to be that concerned with their children being caught up in anger and in hate. Five years ago, parents did not have to be concerned that their children would be exposed to large numbers of influential adults who point at whole groups of people and call them criminals and rapists. Five years ago, parents did not have to be concerned that their children would be immersed in a society that has posited hatred as a valid reason for action.
Our children are our treasures. We need to protect them from the terrors of this fallen world. We need to teach them that as followers of Jesus Christ, they cannot participate in the work of the devil, the work of hatred.
The basis of our education in Christ must be the fundamental teachings of the Lord as expressed in today’s Gospel: Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. Children and Teens can learn to withstand hatred if they are taught to ask themselves, “Are people loving God when they say such horrible things about other people?”
I also suggest that parents educate their children by absolutely refusing to allow the word “hate” to be used in their house, by anyone, children or adults. Even if a child say, “I hate brussel sprouts,” parents should say, “We don’t say that word here. You can say ‘I can’t stand brussel sprouts,’ but the word hate is not allowed in this house.” And if the child asks, “Why?,” respond, “Because this is not just a house, it is a home. A home is where Jesus is present. He is here uniting us into a family.” And if your pre-Teen or Teen asks, “So, is it OK to use the word hate outside our house?,” you could respond, “No it is not OK. Remember, we each have Jesus dwelling inside of us. He will not remain within us if we turn from His Love and turn to hate.”
We might not be able to protect our children from exposure to those elements of society driven by hate, but we can teach them why they need to fight against being caught up in the hatred. We cannot allow our children to become haters.
Begin with that teaching of the Lord in today’s Gospel. Loving God with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind means that our lives must revolve around God. We must love him with every part of our lives. Children and Teens may not be able to define love, but they understand love. They know that their parents love them with every part of their being. They also know that they love their parents with every fiber of their being, even when they are upset with Mom or Dad those times when they don’t get their way. Teach your children that the love that they experience from Mom and Dad and the love that they have for Mom and Dad are just small reflections of the love that God has for them, and that they must have for God. God created us to love us. He fills us with His love. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, in a crowd or alone, every one of us has received the infinite gift of God’s love. “Know that I am with you always,” Jesus said to the disciples before He ascended into heaven. He is here. He is with us. He is loving us. And He is waiting for our response. Our response is our love for Him, a love that is all embracing, a love that emanates from our whole life, our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole soul. Every action of our lives must display the love of God. We are people of God. We are people of love. If we are ever anywhere or involved in anything where the love of God is not evident, then we have no business being there.
Teach your children that we love God because He first loved us, and teach your children the second part of today’s gospel, love your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps this is clearer to us in an earlier part of Matthew, Matthew 7:12. We call this passage the Golden rule, “Do to others what you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” Many ancient philosophers stated a negative law, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” Only Jesus was positive, “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” We need to teach our children to be active lovers of other people. We need to teach them to reach out to others in love, particularly to those who need their help. We need to teach them to fight against hatred with the one weapon that destroys hatred. That weapon is love. It is the weapon that Jesus used when from the cross He destroyed the devil’s hold on the world.
I am convinced that it is more difficult to be a parent now than it was five years ago because hatred is now acceptable in some areas of our society. But, there is this wonderful positive: parents are being forced by all this to become even greater lovers of God, of their family, and of each other. We can beat the devil at his own game. He provides hatred. We counter with love. When we come upon hatred, we can use this as an occasion to grow in love. By fighting against hatred, from the use of the word hate in our homes to reaching out to the victims of hatred in our society, we become more loving. We beat the devil at his own game.
Parents have the wonderful responsibility of raising children for God. But you parents are not alone in this battle for the Kingdom. We the Christian community all share in your responsibility. We are gathered here this morning to pray for our parents and to pray that we all might have the courage to withstand evil. We pray that we might have the courage to be people of love.