Notes from Deacon Pareja
Sometimes I’m amazed to think back to how we viewed safety just a few decades ago versus the importance we place on it today. I can recall when virtually no one wore bike helmets when riding a bicycle. As I child, I would roller-skate down the street without padded elbows and knees or a helmet. Many of us can remember riding in cars as children without a car seat or even a seatbelt to keep us secure. Were you like me and even rode on the back deck of the car between the back seat and the back window?
In a relatively short period of time, our society’s focus on child safety has grown exponentially. Car seats aren’t only common; they are the law. Seatbelts are also required by law and data indicates that Minnesota is one of the best states regarding seatbelt usage with approximately 95% of all motorists using them. Car manufacturers have even developed smart airbags that deploy at varying speeds Our focus on child safety isn’t just limited to automobile safety. Toys are no longer allowed to be manufactured if they don’t meet certain standards. Infant toys are not allowed if they fit inside a choke tube indicating that they could be swallowed by an infant. Certain toxic materials have been banned in the manufacturing of toys. Cribs can no longer be manufactured and sold if one or both of the side rails can be lowered helping to minimize risk of injury and death to children. These are just a few of the many, many initiatives that have been developed in just the past few years that have been created in order to protect precious young lives.
As a society, I think it is easy to see that we value our children and have a strong desire to protect them from harm. That has not always been the case. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples the following: Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37) The reason that it is so significant that Jesus focuses on a child is because society did not place much value on children at that time. They were not given respect. They were not valued by society. Certainly they were loved and cared for by their immediate family, but society’s emphasis was not placed on the children of their community. A person’s worth was established based on their ability to work, to produce, and to contribute to the well-being of the family and of the society. Similar to a beggar or a sick person, children were more of a burden than an asset to the community.
By placing the spotlight on a child, Jesus is focusing God’s loving grace on the neediest in society. God sent His only Son to care for the sick, the marginalized and the forgotten. He was not sent to serve kings and the wealthiest people. He was sent to serve the poor and those who were in need. We, too, need to embrace the poor, the sick and the needy. We need to serve those who can’t serve themselves. Like Jesus, we need to love and protect the innocent child who cannot protect himself.