Nearly twenty years ago, Dr. Mary Pipher, author of The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families, prophetically wrote of society’s dangerous influences on the family. She could well have been meditating on this week’s Scriptures. She begins by referencing to prairie days when families built homes to protect beloved members from vicious animals, destructive storms, and the occasional robber. Pipher then makes the point that today’s world is more treacherous because the enemy is stealthily breaking and entering into our homes. Suddenly, the world of rattlesnakes, tornadoes, and Jesse James sound like the good old days.
In times past, the community, commerce, and institutions often worked to help protect children and to raise law-abiding citizens. Many aspects of today’s society, however, seem bent on addicting our children—from the earliest age—to “luxury and pleasure” (Jas 5:5): consumerism, gambling, pornography, drugs, and constant busyness. Pressure to be beautiful enough, smart enough, talented enough, rich enough—“good enough” to fit in—seeps into our homes through the television and the Internet.
Today’s Gospel warns against anyone who would cause children to sin for “it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9: 47). Stern words for those who seek to enslave our children. We immediately point to the natural suspects: drug dealers, human traffickers, and cunning advertisers. Temptation, though, usually presents itself through an accidental click, a slick ad, or a seductive invitation. Evil, more terrifying than any rattlesnake, slithers silently into our homes while we, and our children, privately click sites and surf channels.
As important as monitoring the media and refusing to say “yes” to our children’s every whim, we are wise to stay close as a family and to arm our children with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We fortify our children against the venom of poisonous lies when we enlighten them with the truth of who they are in Christ. As parents/grandparents, we name grace by reminding our children, over and over, God has created them, God loves them, and God has a plan and purpose for them. When children know—to their core—God loves them infinitely and unconditionally, no amount of forked tongue can tempt them to seek “wealth that will rot” (Jas 5:2) and engage in activity that will “devour the flesh” (Jas 5:3).
Dr. Pipher prophesied the enemy facing today’s families. And as terrifying as it may be, parents are not alone against this adversary who would cause their children to sin. The spirit of the Lord is with parents who seek God’s strength, guidance, and wisdom in teaching their children the precepts of the Lord. The spirit of the Lord rests upon parents who bring their children to Jesus—the One who loves them far more than we can even imagine. God has entrusted us with the great gift of children—and God will not abandon us in the care of their souls. Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.