Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
October 6, 2012
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Respect Life Sunday
“Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Mark 10:15
“Like a child” we must accept the kingdom of God. So says our Lord in the Gospel. How does a child accept anything? Without inhibition or cynicism, freely and joyfully—this is how a child accepts. It reminds me of the story a lady told me about her granddaughter on a morning when she discovered it had snowed the evening before. The little girl of five opened the front door to the house, ran into the snow-covered yard, raised her arms and cried out, “Oh, grandma, it’s good to be alive.” An adult, on the other hand, would have been worried about snowy roads and getting to work.
Being childlike, we must admit, has never been especially easy for adults. Too caught up in the world of acquisition, loss and gain, selfishness and pride, to regain the childlike wonder that accepts the kingdom of God adults really have an obstacle to overcome—their egos. And this is precisely the point of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel. We must remember that the Gospel begins with an admonition on the permanency of marriage. “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8). If we wish to understand what contributes to a successful marriage, then we must ask a faithfully married couple. They will tell us it is selfless sacrifice, the giving of oneself, that makes it all possible. Doesn’t marriage require something of a childlike acceptance of the other?
As Catholics we observe October as Respect Life month and the first Sunday of October as Respect Life Sunday. The need to be reminded of the desperate need for a greater respect for life in all its forms, from conception to natural death, becomes ever more imperative. Simply, if a society cannot protect a child in the womb, then how can protect life in any form, much less heed the Gospel message of becoming childlike? The attempts on the part of some to obscure the issue are pernicious. The way in which proponents of abortion frame the pro-life position as a threat to women’s rights is one example. It reminds me of a comment I read recently by a survivor of Nazi atrocities. “[P]ropaganda can’t be contradicted by facts if people really don’t want to know the truth” (When Hitler Took Austria by Kurt von Schuschnigg, Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2012, p. 148). Perhaps that is problem—the inability to acknowledge the truth. The world in which we live appears increasingly like what Professor Brad Gregory of Notre Dame University recently called “the Kingdom of Whatever.” “For a great many people,” he wrote, “subjective, individual preference seems to be the extent of any foundation for the answers to the Life Questions amid our hyperpluralism” (The Unintended Reformation by Brad Gregory, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2012, p. 112).
However, we cannot suggest the problem without proposing a solution or at least an approach to the solution. For this the Church has given us the gift of the Year of Faith which begins this week. The purpose of the Year of Faith is to embrace the Lord Jesus in a personal way, coming closer to Him, developing a personal relationship with Him, entering deeply into His mystery. He is our standard. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Jesus himself is the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he” (Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2008, p. 49).
When Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to little children, He is in a sense saying that the He belongs to little children. The final gesture of embracing them, blessing them, and placing His hands on them begs this interpretation. The Year of Faith invites us to more than an understanding of this. The Year of Faith is not an intellectual exercise. The Year of Faith invites us to embrace and be embraced like children. To enter the kingdom of God, to enter into the mystery of Jesus Christ, we must be little children, fearing nothing, accepting the truth in its totality, running out into the snow and crying, “Oh, it’s good to be alive.”