The voices of children in the wilderness

Tom Bartolomeo
2nd Sunday Advent C 2013
Baruch 5: 1-9; Psalm 126;
Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11; 11-1 Luke 3: 1-6
Reproduced with Permission

Did you hear the clarion call in the first reading? Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the world of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

"See your children." For Mary, the Mother of God, at the time of today's gospel her child had begun his life-changing ministry following John the Baptist, the child of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, one voice echoing the other, first, John the Baptizer, "crying out in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'," then Jesus crying out, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'," Mark 1, 13-14.

"See your children." Both cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, felt the presence of their children in their wombs, together! Remember the scene in the Gospel of Luke when Mary while early in her pregnancy went to assist Elizabeth in the last trimester of her pregnancy? "She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth, and when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb . . . and she exclaimed in a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb", Luke 1: 42-43.

Thirty years later John the Baptizer and Jesus would meet again for the last time when Jesus was baptized by John, who protested that Jesus should be baptizing him but Jesus persisted, "Let it be so . . ." , Matthew 3,15.

What is so striking in Elizabeth's and Mary's joyful exchange as expectant mothers was Elizabeth's expression, "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb." Fruit of the womb. So biblical. The creation story in the Book of Genesis describes all living things as "seed bearing" creatures, fruit identifying their species. It is no less true with humans, and what a compliment to both women that they identified themselves with the fruit of their wombs, the sons of their own flesh.

"By their fruit you shall know them", Jesus taught. The fruit of any living being identifies itself with its parent. When the generation of life is destroyed as in the case of 'fixing' an animal or a pet we describe the creature 'neutered', being neither male or female. Men and women who may not marry and preserve their potentiality of male and female as long as they have not been 'fixed' or 'neutered'.

In the spiritual order a child may grow apart from his parents' faith for various reasons. It is not determined instinctively as in physical nature. We decide freely how we grow as children--in God's grace or not. Regardless, our children remain our children and God's, like marriage 'for better or for worse'. But by necessity of nature and by God's decree we complete his plan and purpose as fathers and mothers ordained long before Creation. Note in the creation story of Genesis, God said "it is not good for man to be alone" after he had first created man. Was God remiss in his remark, "it is not good for man to be alone", or was God drawing our attention to the two, male and female, becoming one in order to bear children. It was true then, and it is true now as in all living things, seed bearing living creatures. Consider as well Christ's parables about seed bearing living things, one, the sower who sows seed on bad and then on good soil producing no grain on bad soil and much fruit on good soil or, two, sown seed which grows and matures without man's knowledge while he sleeps or, three, the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed which grows into the largest of bushes where birds may find shelter.

This explains God's unwavering insistence of life in marriage, life that only a man and woman may bear. Without the intention of having children a marriage is considered null and void. Same sex marriage abrogates the substance of marriage--bearing fruit no fruit, no children. Contraception, too, denies the substance of marriage, a fact we would consider inconceivable in our own origin. In his most complimentary terms Jesus describes his relationship with us, the bridegroom spiritually bearing children for heaven which he and the Father decided before creation.

Sometimes ( perhaps more than we like ) the fruit grows and matures in ways we do not anticipate, children who may have abandoned or compromised their faith. Where is God's hand in that? Let our consciences and God's providence tell the story. The life of Saint Monica offers a good example. She married a non-Catholic, a pagan to tell the truth, and her son at best was a nominal Catholic and had no real regard for his mother's faith. She prayed, sacrificed, never abandoned her husband or the fruit of her womb, her son, and grew in holiness. Many years and many sufferings later, at no little effort on her part, her husband converted and her Son rose to be a great bishop and Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo.

See to your children. I tell you this as your father in the Lord.