Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on October 22-23, 2011 at Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY, Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY, and Saint Stephen the Martyr EKU Newman Center, Richmond KY
Readings: Exodus 22:20-26; Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40
There will come a time in your life when you look at yourself in a mirror and see your father. And, sometimes, you just might spot more than a glimpse of your mother. Whether you like it or not, you have inherited your parents’ genes, making you look like them, sound like them, sometimes even snore as loudly as they do.
But, that is not half as scary as when you hear your spouse or, worse, your sibling complain: “You’re starting to sound like your Dad!” or “Can you please be a little less like Mom?” Whether your parents like it or not, you have learned their good habits and their bad, their idiosyncrasies and their craziness. Thanks to them, you have learned how to control your temper and how to lose it, when to cry and when to put up a brave front, how to deal with stress and what to do for fun, how to love and whom to hate. As Lieutenant Cable had observed in South Pacific: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late before you are six or seven or eight to hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught.” Whether you realize it or not, your parents have shaped you when they raised you.
The Church recognizes that parents have this fundamental influence on their children. That is why, at the beginning of the Rite of Baptism, the priest reminds the parents that they need to be more intentional in raising a Christian child. He charges them with the duty to bring up that child “to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor” (Rite of Baptism, no. 77; cf. Mt. 22:37-39). Through these words, the Church points out that a child’s fate and faith depend upon the example given by his father and mother. She will not know Christ unless her parents introduce her to Him. He will not know that all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind belong to God (cf. Mt. 22:37) unless they teach him so. She will not love her neighbor as herself (cf. Mt. 22:39) unless they show her how.
A child has got to be carefully taught to love God and neighbor. That is why we Catholics choose to baptize our children as infants. We want to teach them as early as possible to be persons of faith. We want to teach them before it is too late to be as compassionate as God is. And in a world that is becoming more and more hostile to Christ, we know that we cannot afford to leave their learning of God’s commandments to chance. We cannot leave our children unaware of the Lord who alone is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer (cf. Ps. 18:3). Otherwise, they would wind up lost in this wilderness of tears, oblivious of the compass of Christ’s cross to guide them through. Instead of professing Christian charity, they would rather prefer inhuman prejudice; instead of choosing God’s righteousness, they would sooner condone ungodly morals.
There will come a time when your children will look at themselves in a mirror and see what sort of people they would have become. Will they see a glimpse of God our Father in themselves? Will they be as faithful as the Thessalonians of old who became imitators of [Saint Paul] and of the Lord (cf. 1 Th. 1:6)? Only the Lord knows. But, in the meantime, we ourselves can try to be more like Christ so that they need not look far for a model of a believer (cf. 1 Th. 1:7).