In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “You will be betrayed by parents, brothers and sisters, and by relatives and friends” (Luke 21:5-19). To be betrayed by your own parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, is a terrible thing. A God Flash
Betrayal by someone so very close to you, which is one of the themes of today’s Gospel, has always been
seen as a great crime of the heart. A spouse who violates his or her own vows and breaks the covenant of marriage. A priest who betrays his vows and abuses children. A traitor who sells out his own country by betraying it to another country.
This is one kind of betrayal – violating vows of trust in marriage, priesthood and citizenship.
But there is another kind of betrayal – one that is rooted in weakness and it happens every day. These daily betrayals need daily forgiveness. Most of all, we need to learn how to control our tendency to betray one another, since every one of us has it since we were born.
Children betray their parents out of weakness. Call it original sin, if you will. So children have to be taught to go beyond their own self-centeredness and learn fidelity to family, friends, spouses, country and God. In other words, children need to be taught to be responsible.
In today’s world, the word “good” and “evil” are rarely used. Instead we say, “healthy” and “sick”.
A friend of mine was playing in the park one day with her two-year old son. A five-year old boy came running over and threw him down on the concrete, injuring the two-year old’s head. The five-year old’s mother rushed over to her own son and demanded, “Honey, what’s troubling you today?”
There was no reprimand, no sense of right or wrong by the parent. The five-year old’s mother was oblivious to the crying two-year old. Her own son was not responsible for his own behavior. He was only troubled.
In our world today, self-esteem is seen as more important to teach than self-control. In a book called, Inside Human Cruelty and Violence, the author says that one of the root characteristics of violent criminals is “high” self-esteem. I said “high” self-esteem, which means “I am the center of the world.”
This attitude is a complete opposite to what Jesus teaches: “Your life is not your own.” Practicing compassion instead of selfishness, loyalty instead of self-fulfillment, and fidelity instead of betrayal – comes after years of training and good example.
Teaching loyalty, fidelity and honesty takes time, lots of time. We spend a great deal of time and money on our children’s intellectual progress. We try to send them to the best schools. We give them every advantage. We show them how to be popular. All that is wonderful. It’s important. It’s great.
But do we spend as much time and money training our children in their moral life? We take their moral training for granted. As a result, our children are getting their moral training from YouTube, various websites and TV.
In ancient China people wanted security from the barbarian invasions from the North. So they built the Great Wall of China, in the 14th century. It was 5,500 miles long. It was so high and so thick they thought no one could climb over it and no one could destroy it.
So the people settled back to enjoy their security. In the first 100 years after the Great Wall went up, the barbarians invaded three times. Not once did the hordes of barbarians have to break down the wall or climb over it.
Each time they simply bribed a gatekeeper and marched right in. The moral and the lesson to be learned – the Chinese were so busy building and relying on the Great Wall of stone, they forgot to teach integrity, honesty, and loyalty to their children. So taking a bribe was so easy, so very easy for their children to do. Are we any different than they were 700 years ago?