Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily while celebrating a Mass during the 9 Days for Life Novena, celebrated Jan. 27, 2021 at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. You can watch the Mass here.
Yes, Jesus put that little child before them and said, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me”... And, if he said it to his disciples, he is probably saying the same thing to us today.
What does this mean? If it was about accepting someone who is easy to accept, he would not have had to say this – and so, this verse is also about accepting the hard to accept persons. A little child is dependent, he or she requires care. Kids can create a burden; they are certainly great responsibilities. How do we make room in our lives for those hard to accept people unless we are humble? How do we bear with one another’s burdens unless we are humble? Humility doesn’t mean to think less of ourselves; but to think of ourselves less.
Jesus is trying to make an important point – and drives it home with this example. He wants to remind us that the way things are valued in this world is not how they are valued in his kingdom. We do want to feel important, and we want to feel valued – and that’s what drives most of us to succeed in school and in our workplaces. We live in a very competitive society: it is dog eat dog out there; and to succeed, it seems that we must be the meanest dog. The world tells us, nice guys finish last.
Jesus tells us something different. Yes, it’s good to be important; but it’s more important to be good. That’s why he tells us, “if anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all.”
Today, we celebrate the feast day of a remarkable woman saint of the early 16th century: Angela Merici, founder of the Ursulines, the first group of consecrated women to live outside a cloister or convent.
She is the patroness of the sick and disabled, especially physically challenged people. She and the sisters who joined her sought to educate poor, young women of their time to be future wives and mothers. And she saw this work as a way to re-Christianize the families of her times.
With Pope Francis’ initiative to dedicate the coming year to the family, St. Angela Merici’s is a saint particularly appropriate for our day: She once perceptively said, “disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family.” If that was a problem for the people of her day, it is certainly a problem for us today. Our police forces, our social services agencies, our schools, our courtrooms deal with the consequences of the breakdown of families every day. Her insight has lost none of its timeliness – or its truth. The break-up of families is a consequence of the sexual revolution of the 60s which has wreaked havoc on our contemporary culture. It has devalued the life of the unborn child. It considers fertility a “disease” and pregnancy a “pathology.” Two generations have grown up with the notion, constantly fueled by media messages, that sex is a ‘recreational activity’ that can be engaged in without thought of any possible consequences such as pregnancy or emotional harm. The ‘sexual revolution,’ in separating the link between sexual activity and procreation, also has changed the view of marriage and the family as the commitment of one man and one woman to a lifelong relationship where children are born and nurtured.
Abortion is seen as the solution to an unforeseen problem.
But abortion is no solution – and it is no right. It is a wrong, a grievous wrong that has prematurely ended the lives of more than 60 million souls in this country alone since Roe v. Wade.
As St. Angela Merici understood almost 500 years ago, disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family; but, at the same time, disorder in society makes it increasingly difficult for people to establish families, to marry and stay married; a disordered society becomes an existential desert — a lonely, arid, hostile place where tribalism has replaced religious fervor, where dysfunctional kids shoot up classrooms, where people resort to consumerism, or drugs, or sex to dull their pain and loneliness. Add to this the strains placed on families because of exile, immigration and social and economic disruptions, and you can understand why we need to educate young women how to be wives and mothers, and young men to be husbands and fathers in order to rebuild a culture of life.
A culture of life is one where no person, made in the image and likeness of God, is considered a problem. When we reduce human beings to being simply “problems” we offend their dignity – and then often give ourselves permission to look for solutions, even ‘final’ solutions as the history of the 20th century shows us.
There is no such thing as a problem pregnancy, only a child to be welcomed in life and protected by law. The immigrant is not a problem; perhaps, a stranger but a stranger to be embraced as a brother or sister; even the criminal – despite the horror of his crime – is not a problem but a human person whose dignity and humanity must be respected even in his or her punishment.
Often, we hear some criticize us Catholics for our unwavering support of the unborn. They sometimes snidely accuse us of being more concerned with the child in the womb – and less concerned with the child once she is born. Yet, how can they say this? How dare they say this? They only have to come and see what is done for children and for their parents – in our schools, in our Respect Life pregnancy centers, in our Catholic Charities, in our daycare centers and hospitals.
Jesus says we must be like a “little child.” Only if we know of our own “littleness” under the mercy of God are we able to see others as people also under the mercy of God. To reject the other because he or she is inconvenient or annoying, because he or she is in no position to help us, because he or she is unimportant, at least in ways that the world evaluates what is important, is to reject Christ himself.