Homily Ė 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I was a youth minister I had an absolutely unbelievable experience with a parent. One parent approached me after mass and proceeded to chew me out. She was angry that every week she sent her daughter to youth group and her daughter didn’t know the Our Father and the Hail Mary. What was I doing? I was flabbergasted. I asked her, in all honestly, what her daughter said when they prayed the prayers at home. Let me tell you that really set her off. I was a smart alec and she was going to have me fired. Luckily my pastor stood by me and told her that the first responsibility for educating children belongs to the parents and ultimately God would hold them responsible.
Well the story is a little unbelievable. At least it was to me and so I thought of a way I could make my point to you. I had Ann make a note of some of the families with children that she saw at this Mass and also some of the adults she knew. I thought what I would do is draw a name and have that person or family come up and answer three basic questions about their Catholic Faith. If the child is under 8 then I will ask them to say the Our Father and the Hail Mary for us. If the child or adult whose name is drawn over 8 I will ask them these three questions:
1. What is the Immaculate conception? (Most get this wrong)
2. What are the three things that make a sin mortal instead of venial?
3. When and how often must a Catholic go to confession?
And the lucky person or family is….
You don’t really think I would put someone on the spot that publicly do you? I would never purposely embarrass someone publicly. But if you were even a little bit nervous that your name might be called then you really need to hear todayís message in the Gospel.
The Gospel speaks of avoiding scandal especially to children. Scandal is anything we do or fail to do that leads another person to sin. I want to direct this one especially to parents. Jesus makes a big deal about children because they are less able to defend themselves from evil. Parents and other adults are the examples that most children look to about what is right and wrong. Parents especially are responsible for the Christian education of their children. You hear the questions we ask in Baptism about raising their children in the faith. One day you will stand before God and everyone, and he will question you about how you educated your children. Today you got a reprieve but eventually you will have to answer in front of everyone. You will answer for what example you have given your children and what example you failed to give them. You can’t just say I sent them to CCD. The responsibility is yours and can’t be transferred. If CCD is not working effectively for your child, you need to correct it. You shouldn’t be nervous about your children answering basic questions. If you omit this responsibility then you can be a source of the scandal the Gospel is talking about.
What about sins of commission? What are some of the things we do that give bad example to our children? Our use of language is a big one. The way we lead our lives. The importance we give to God in our lives. One big one I have heard is a challenge in South Dakota is Mass attendance. Some parents will drop their children off for Religious Ed and pick them up without ever going to Mass. What kind of example does this set. Very clearly stated Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass every Sunday. If we do not go then how can we expect our Children to go? Quite frankly you canít. If Mass isnít important enough for you to attend then your kids will get the message loud and clear. They will also get the message if Mass is important but not as important as other things: for example like camping or sports. I have heard it said that Mass attendance is low in the summer because people feel vacation from school means vacation from mass. Or if they go camping for a weekend then they donít have to go to Mass that weekend. I have also heard people say that mass attendance isnít as important as an out of city sports tournament. If you want to go camping or have to go to sports on a weekend you still have the obligation to go to mass. If one or the other must be omitted then it must be camping and sports. If you choose sports or camping above worshiping God and giving him his due place in your life then the message will be communicated loud and clear to your children.
The second half of the Gospel clearly tells us the importance that must be placed on the things of God. If anything comes between us and God then we must cut it off and out of our lives. This is because nothing on this earth can be worth more than our eternal salvation. It is dangerous to form the habit of choosing other things above God. It is a habit that can affect the eternal choices we make. Our spiritual lives and relationship with God should be the most important thing in our lives. If it is not then one day we will have to stand in front of everyone and answer as to why it isnít.
These questions arenít for only those with children. They are for each and everyone of us including me. One day I will stand before God and answer for the example I set for you. For what I did and did not tell you. Each and every person here will do the same. If we set a bad example for others, especially the young, then the consequences are clear.
The good news is they are easy to avoid if we simply put God first. If, in our lives and our actions, we have the habit of putting God first then the questions are easy to answer and the example we set isnít one we need worry about.
So we return to our first three questions. These are basic questions every Catholic should be able to answer. If you canít then it might be worth your while to learn a little more or even a lot more about your faith. We have many opportunities to do that at St. Michaels. Canít I just answer them for you? Sure I give you the answer to these questions, but I wonít. Because behind them lies another question that only you can answer. Does God come first in my life? That is the important question only you can answer. If you answer that one correctly, then you will have the answer to the other three. The choice is yours. Choose well.