31st Sunday Year B
Forming our children.
We live in a morally challenged world. Today, many practices that were once considered immoral are widely accepted in the secular society – greed, materialism, self-centredness, pornography, promiscuity, divorces, homosexual acts, abortion, euthanasia, the list goes on. And it is not just the secular society, but many Christians accept these as normal as well. This is especially true for many of our young people. While many of them have grown up in the church, we have not spiritually formed them. As a family, the church is just a routine on a Sunday. Little attempt is made to build a relationship with God. Worship is something we say with our lips, almost like a robot, with nothing from our heart. In truth, many of us are believers in name only. We do not believe or practice the teachings of our Christian faith. We do not teach our children or show them good examples. Hence, many of our young people grew up in a moral vacuum. And as they reach the age of reason, helped by secular friends and social media, that moral vacuum is quickly filled with the secular values of the world. And as they grow older, as the church, we continue to fail them. Whether I am a priest, pastor, teacher, parent or grandparent, I continue to refrained from speaking God’s truth. Why do I stay silent? I stay silent in order to avoid conflicts; I stay silent so as not to offend; I stay silent so as to keep the peace. Meanwhile, with the values of the world unchallenged and often reenforced by secular friends and society, our children walk further and further away from God’s truth. Eventually, they leave the church and live their life in moral-free territories. My brothers and sisters, this is the inconvenient truth. For long before “cancel culture” become prevalent in our society, we the church have “cancelled” ourselves for many years. Let us ask ourselves: Does this de-evangelisation process happen in my family? If so, let this week’s Scripture be a wake-up call to me.
In Deuteronomy 5:6-21, God gave the people the Ten Commandments. The text of the First Reading follows shortly after that. In it, Moses summarised God’s Commandments as follows:
- “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” (verse 4)
- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (verse 5)
In the years that follow, the Pharisees expanded on God’s Commandment to 613 Mosaic Laws and preached strict adherence to them. By Jesus’ time, the scrupulous application of these 613 laws became a huge burden to the people. So much so that the original intent of the laws, which is the propagation of God’s truth, was lost. My brothers and sisters, we are no different from the Pharisees. We are doing the same with our church routines, our robotic prayers and practices. In the Gospel this week, in answering a question from a scribe, Jesus teaches us to shift our focus back onto God’s truth. The scribes asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” (verse 28) The Gospel of Matthew has a similar account of this story (Mt 22:34-40) but with a Pharisee asking the same question. In this week’s Gospel, as in Matthew’s account, Jesus pointed the people to Moses’ teachings in the First Reading.
First, referring to Deut 6:4, Jesus said, “the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (verse 29) In other words, the Lord is our God. We worship God and God alone. In our secular living, we violate this Commandment often, putting money, lust, individualism, and personal pleasure before God. Secondly, referring to Deut 6:5, Jesus commanded us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (verse 30) But we do not do that. In our daily life, we devote all our heart, soul, mind and strength to secular vices. Only after we fulfill these pursuits that we devote our leftover attention to God. By our examples and our silence, we teach our children to do the same. Hence the great de-evangelisation begins. It is in this context that that we must pay special attention to the third commandment Jesus added to Moses’, that is, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (verse 31). How does this commandment fit in?
Jesus is telling us that our love of God comes in three forms, with each in its proper order. First, we must recognise the Lord as our God above all else (verse 29). Secondly, we must devote all our energy to worshipping Him and Him alone (verse 30). Only then, can we love our fellow human beings properly (verse 31). The problem with many of us is that not only we love money, lust, individualism, and personal pleasure before God. We also love our friends, our children more than we love God. We flip the order of Jesus’ Commandments. So, we do not speak God’s truth to our children, and in acts of misguided love, we approve all the things that they do, no matter how immoral their actions are. So, when my children are obsessed with greed and materialism, I affirmed them as having healthy ambition. When my children are promiscuous or engage in unnatural sexual acts, I tacitly approve their behaviours by keeping silent. When my children’s disregard for God led them down the path of abortions and divorces, I implicitly supported their decision by saying nothing. When euthanasia law was being debated in our Parliaments, religious groups raised the danger of the law being abused by adult children to kill off their aging sick parents. My brothers and sisters, consider this – as this could happen to you and me. After a lifetime of silence on our children’s spiritual formation, if a time comes that we are lying unconscious on our bed and our children make the decision to euthanise us, it would be too late for us to speak out then! Do not blame our children. For to them, their decision to euthanise us might be one that is acted out of love. So we have only ourselves to blame, for we have not formed our children spiritually, so much so that they do not realise that euthanasia is not love.
My brothers and sisters, we need to realise that we are our children’s priest, pastor, teacher, parent or grandparent. We are not their social media friends clamouring for “likes”. For the formation of our children, we need to put on the heart of Jesus. Jesus was not concerned about being liked, He was more concerned about being right – right with our children, right with God. It is only when we are not afraid to teach our children the truth that we can be blameless ourselves. In Old Testament traditions, the head of the family is the family priest, responsible for the moral formation of the family. My brothers and sisters, take courage! Let us be that blameless priest of our family. Let us become more like Jesus. Like St Paul said in the Second Reading this week, “For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” (verse 26) To compensate for our human weaknesses, we have the perfect high priest in Jesus Christ to model ourselves to. St Paul continues, “For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” (verse 28)
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” (2 Chr 15:7) May the Holy Spirit guide us. Amen.