Chaplain's News

Jesus makes an extraordinary statement of self-identification in this weekend's gospel: "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me". In ancient world children were precious to their parents but had no social status or value, until adulthood they were nobodies. For someone outside the family to welcome a child was to turn the prevailing values and social mores upside down; it would require putting aside one's ideas of self-importance and adult status and meeting equally as a child to a child.

Last Sunday we welcomed our First Communicants at St Joseph's, Subiaco, where our children did take an active part in the celebration of the Word and Sacrament, the preciousness of each and every child and of every human life, no matter how small or insignificant their littleness was at the Mass. For some others, on that day it was a relentless and subtle pressure to return to the liturgical and the practice of the past all affecting the germinal faith of God's people.

Giving attention to the 'liturgy's sake alone, as an end in itself, is not Christian faith: it is narcissistic obsession or as Fr. James Crichton calls 'it the meaningless performance called ritualism'.

Our celebration that morning sanctified almost every event in the lives of our families in their efforts to stay in all their grace filled moments of love, as their families struggled to hold together, in the terrible anxiety about money and mortgages, in the fears of their health, in their depressions and temptations, in their despair before a world of pain, in their loss of faith, in all their experiences of death and hope in their desire to worship God. As Professor John Baldovin SJ, in his acclaimed 'Reforming the Liturgy' 2009, reminds us that liturgy must never separate the sacred from the profane.

Our families do want to experience God in the middle of our children's lives in the middle of the mess and mystery of each day, at the heart of our loves, our lives and our pain. This healing and encouraging celebration of the Eucharist of each child ultimately did reveal God's brightest presence in the hearts of our children as they each revealed in their palm the mysterious grace which governs their whole life -'the grace that finds its victory in the monotony, pain and ordinariness' of daily rising and raising of these beautiful children as an intimate dimension of the glory of God.

At its most basic level the latter part of today's Gospel reveals what we would expect of Jesus - he likes children and they like him. One way in which a child was publicly claimed in this society was that only their immediate family could touch them. The story, then of Jesus embracing the child in public was in itself a social challenge to accepted customs. But it's much more than that. In taking the children in his arms, Jesus declares that they are possessions of no one, but they belong to us all as gifts. In the family of God, children are accorded the dignity and respect we would give to God.

The Gospel tells us that those who deserve our attention and esteem are the ones who are the least, the most at risk, or those who put their talents and gifts at their service by making the world a better place for them.

People can change at any time and wonderful things are always waiting to happen. At the Voluntary mass for Year 9 this week there were over 90 students in the chapel, who displayed an inspiring moment to respect bond and share food and drink together. Now this is definitely a graced moment of making our world a better place. This is definitely, a reservoir for youth faith formation, where our young renew their faith, to be confident in living and expressing their faith. Thus in celebrating their gifts, they are celebrating God's handwork.

A final thought of reflection: All in the name of peace, countries around the world are out procuring imminent nuclear weapons at the cost of billions of dollars, but would they be so complacent, as not to have any rational debate about the morality of militarism, if they could see the full context: a weapon that at it best makes the world a good deal less secure, set against the slow, desperate, hellish, heartbreaking wasting away of the countless million children who are left to starve in a world that consistently prioritises procuring military hardware over feeding them?

Fr Gaetan Pereira SJ
College Chaplain