Memorial of St. Benedict, abbot
Everyday after school the boys rode to the park for football practice. They left their bicycles around the water fountain to scrimmage on the open field two hundred yards away. One day they returned to the fountain after practice to find a number of their bicycles missing. “How could someone steal my bicycle?” a naïve victim asked. He was learning the hard way how the world works.
In the gospel Jesus tells his apostles to look out for how the world works. He says that he is sending them as sheep among wolves. People will try to take advantage of them because they preach goodness and forgiveness. But he assures them that they are not defenseless. As a shield against swindlers they should practice shrewdness. As an ally against liars they seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But it is also critical that the apostles do not become like their adversaries. Jesus insists that they remain as “simple as doves.” They are not to use force, treachery, or bribes to spread the Gospel.
Although parents may not see themselves as apostles, they have the obligation to teach their children the faith. How do they respond, then, when their teens say, “I don’t want to go to church. Mass is boring”? What do they do when their teens declare, “It’s o.k. to have sex with your girlfriend as long as you do it ‘responsibly’”? Like Jesus says, we must be both shrewd and simple. A Jesuit high school teacher advises parents to inform their teenagers that Sunday Mass is part of the price they pay for living at home. Similarly, teens might respond positively to the truth that sex outside marriage belies honesty. That is, parents should tell their teens that sex before marriage is always irresponsible because it pretends to show a profound, permanent affection that just isn’t there.