December 29, 2019 - Pastor Message01/19/2020
THE YEAR OF DISCIPLESHIP PART 5: WELCOMING CHILDREN “There lived in Jerusalem at that time a certain man named Simeon. He was just and pious and awaited the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not experience death until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came to the temple, inspired by the Spirit, and, when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him the customary ritual of the law, he took him in his arms and blessed God” (Luke 2:25-28).
The story of the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem does not tell us what he was doing at the time. Being a baby, I imagine he was probably doing what every other baby does: maybe sleeping; maybe crying; maybe spitting up or messing his diaper; or maybe all of the above. Like us in all things but sin, the infant Jesus was just like every other baby, which is to say that he was basically a tiny, wiggly ball of pure, unchecked ego, who expected that every desire that popped into his head would be immediately satisfied by the adults around him and, if not, he would likely cry and scream until it was.
This is not to say that babies are bad or intentionally selfish. Remember that Jesus was completely free from sin throughout his entire life. Babies and young children, including Jesus, cannot help acting that way. Unable to understand or articulate their needs or those of others, they depend completely on the adults around them to get them through that stage of life. Adults teach them along the way how to act responsibly and to be considerate of others, a project that takes time, patience, and great effort, primarily from their parents and family, but also from the broader community of which the children are a vital part, including their faith community.
As we conclude our month-long reflection on the call of Christ’s disciples to welcome others, how are we doing as individuals and as a parish at welcoming young families and children? Do we, like Simeon, embrace the young children among us and bless God who gives these children life and places them in our midst as living signs of his wonder and grace, even when they cry and fuss? Or do we curse young children as a distraction? Do we welcome young families and support them with our encouragement, patience, and assistance? Or do we discourage young families from being here with dirty looks and whispered criticisms?
Certainly, as part of teaching their children to be considerate of others, parents of young children need to be aware of how distracting a fussy child can be at Mass, and, if their child is truly inconsolable, temporarily remove the child from the worship space until he or she calms down and can rejoin the rest of the congregation in prayer. That said, we as a parish community need to understand that babies and young children, through no fault of their own or their parents’, are by nature fussy, and we need to support our parish’s families as young children learn how to participate appropriately at Mass. May the faith-filled example of Simeon guide our efforts, and may all people, including the youngest among us, know they are welcome here at St. Boniface.Fr. Marc Stockton