November 13, 2023
by David Crawford
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

Wisdom 1:1-7
Psalms 139:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10
Luke 17:1-6

Praying Ordinary Time


It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.  Be on your guard!

A few days ago, I was at the airport to pick up my son, who was flying in from out of town for a short visit.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, I had a wonderful opportunity to watch a mother working to keep her 2-year-old daughter from getting bored while the father was at the rental car counter.  Mom’s efforts were all teaching related – how to climb into a big chair and sit properly, identifying colors and shapes, pronouncing strange words, etc.  I was impressed at the mother’s positive, encouraging and patient attitude, especially given the little girl’s short attention span and varying levels of interest.  At one point, Mom tried to get Dad’s attention.  “Nick.”  No answer.  “Nick.”  Again, no answer.  Mom tried once more, this time with a little frustration and an emphasis on each syllable:  “Nicholas!”  Delightedly, the little girl started chanting “Ni-cho-las! Ni-cho-las!” over and over as she marched in a circle, ignoring her mother’s attempts to quiet her and to instruct how to address her “Daddy.” 

Now, I am not suggesting that Mom did anything wrong or that the 2-year-old was being sinful.  What I noticed, though, is that the little girl seemed to learn and embrace what was said – pretty mildly, I might add – in an unguarded moment of frustration.  What are we teaching our little ones in our unguarded moments?  For that matter, what are we teaching them with how we go about our everyday lives, at home and in public?  Can they tell that we love God with all our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:37), or do we teach them that loving God is something we do at church, certain holidays, and then only if there is not something more “important” (like sports or extra sleep)?  Can they tell that we love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39), but not when they make us mad, do something we don’t like, or give us something to gossip about?  Do they know that we love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), or do we teach that anger and hostility are the ways to respond to people with whom we disagree (many of whom we have never met and only know through the media) about local, state, national and international issues, parties or persons in politics, labor, culture, etc., etc.?  When we are right about something, is love apparent or are we, to paraphrase Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 13, just making dissonant, unpleasant noise with no great value?  Do we seek justice for the oppressed, even for those with whom we find ourselves in opposition and even when the person doing the injustice is someone we like; do we love mercy, even when it means someone we dislike may not be punished severely; and do we walk humbly with our God, even when it may mean something is not done the way we want (Micah 6:8)?

There are so many things in our daily lives that challenge us, and we so many examples of people responding to hatred with hatred, to violence with violence.  We who follow Christ are called to respond differently, lovingly.  What Dr. King professed so many years ago is still true today:  “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  We just need faith, no bigger than a mustard seed, that love, which comes from God and is God (1 John 4:7-8), is ours.

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