By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published April 12, 2012
Recently I was asked to preach at a Mass and was told beforehand that the congregation would be mostly young people. It was a family Mass, and when I looked out on the large gathering, it was easy to see that most of those before me were indeed very young.
There were three readings from Scripture, as there are every Sunday, and the main theme was the law—the spirit vs. the law theme. I had a hard time wondering how to package that for kids. But the more I thought about it, the more challenging it became. I eventually settled on talking about their experience and their hopes—for young and old alike have rich and hopeful experiences. So, I asked them to think about their lives and the good laws that they already knew—laws that are easily picked up in everyday experiences. There are all kinds of laws. There are the ones that keep them safe and keep the roads safe.
And there are laws that help people do what is right and live good lives. I cannot say that all the kids were spellbound, but I think I managed to get the attention of a good number of them.
I shared with them that no matter what they choose to be when they grow up, they will have to learn from and deal with laws—and perhaps discover some new ones. If they want to study the sky and the stars and how such vast things move, there are laws “up there” that are fascinating. If they wanted to study music, there are laws there, too, since music follows notes and patterns. And doctors know a lot of laws about sickness and health and the way the body works. And, finally, when they get older and have more schooling, they will learn the laws of grammar and writing.
But the most important law is the command Jesus gave to love, even love our enemies and those who hurt us. If everyone loved like that, our world would be a better place. For we would live, really, as brothers and sisters.
I cannot say that the kids sat there in reverential awe, but I hope that they learned something in the few minutes I had with them. I realized that their attention spans are short and they easily get restless.
But I also realize that we adults do not necessarily have longer spans of attention and that we, too, get restless in our lives.
Life is brief for all of us, and the words are many that we hear all through our years. Hopefully, the best of those words encourage us to better love each other, while we have each other and the time to do so.
I looked at a lot of kids being held with love by their parents. I saw before me the meaning of life, and that was for me a wordless homily in itself. It is the law that is written in our hearts and that is the way God teaches us about himself, the God who holds us all in his hands.