A mighty deed for "the little ones"

Tom Bartolomeo
©Tom Bartolomeo
26th Sunday Ordinary
Numbers 11: 25-29;
Psalms 19;
James 5:1-6;
Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48
Reproduced with Permission

We are told to know who your friends in the Lord are. And in the spirit of Christ accept "whoever is not against us is for us" as "anyone who gives . . . a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ . . .". The anyone "who performs a mighty deed" in Christ's name or the anyone "the Lord might bestow his spirit on" whom Christ approved may not 'officially' be in the company of your parish.

Then, in the harshest terms Jesus condemned anyone who "causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." ( We can assume that Jesus was referring to the child he had just caressed and spoken of in last Sunday's gospel, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me" ).

Was Jesus exaggerating when he continued, "better that you lose a "hand" or a "foot" or an "eye" than sin and "be thrown into Gehenna, where 'the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched"? Or was Jesus warning us about the occasions of sin and scandals affecting the character development of "these little ones"? One would think that a child was incapable of a grave sin, but not a sin inflicted upon a child, scandal, abuse or neglect leading to the corruption of a child as he grew into adulthood. Such shame for so many children lost in a culture of indifference and selfishness.

Some would say it is too "old fashioned" for mom ( or dad ) to raise their kids themselves. Some parents say that both of them must work either to survive or maintain a certain standard of living. Many single parents say, They have no choice but to leave their children at daycare or other facility while they work.

I do not mean to lay any guilt on these struggling parents, just a re-assessment of their personal circumstances, trade-offs, if they choose. For starters, we either accept the beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" or miss the opportunity for blessedness or happiness, which are synonymous biblical terms. Ever notice how large families, four or more children, remain more often intact and seem happier? Just an aside. All those long hours away from home to save for a child's college education when working one's way through night school would do as well. Compared to us most families in the world would envy our standard of living. Perhaps we can lower our standards a notch or two for more family time. It may not seem "a mighty deed" but it may turn out to be a reward "not lost" on those who involve themselves--drawing the extended family into the child's life, a widower or widow, an uncle or aunt whose grown children have moved on, those practicing Catholics who could both give and receive the blessings of parenting another's child's in the life of faith. A someone in the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program who could be a mentor of faith for a child.

In the Book of Genesis this was the standard, the "faith of our fathers" we celebrate, the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as they lived their faith. Remember the story of Lot, how Abraham repeatedly rescued his deceased brother's nephew, the son of Abraham's deceased brother whom he had protected. Faith was the cohesive force in the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They attributed their customs and traditions to God, not to an abstract notion of God, but to the persons of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Summary of homily

Parents can find help raising their children in the faith outside the usual sources. All it takes is determination and faith.