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Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Zech. 8:1-8 & Lk. 9:46-50

Zechariah preached when times were hard for his people. They were discouraged and disheartened about their future. But in the rebuilding of the temple he saw a sign of hope.

To be a person of faith is to have hope in the future, based on a trust in God's goodness. We all like to have something to which we can look forward, whether a good meal at the end of the day or a long-awaited holiday. They can give us the courage to carry on in difficult times, or add to the zest of life when things are going well. A Christian is someone who should look forward to better times in their personal lives and for the whole world. For every Christian the hope should be that the best time is yet to come in Heaven.

These are the worst examples of the many ways in which adults are taking advantage of the weakness and naivety of children, robbing them of their innocence and depriving them of a normal childhood.

In today's Gospel Jesus made it clear that children have a special place in the Kingdom of God. "Anyone who welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me; and anyone who welcome Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” Children have a special claim on our Christian sensibilities. They deserve to be protected from harm because they cannot protect themselves. They deserve to be loved without limits because they cannot earn that love themselves. They deserve to be nurtured in goodness because they cannot train themselves.

Yet our modern society is experiencing an epidemic of child abuse. The stories that appear almost daily are chilling. People of all professions have sexually abused children for years and kept them quiet by the force of their threats. Parents have sexually molested and physically violated their children in the name of love. Relations and neighbours have exploited the trust and innocence of children by luring them into 'grown-up games' that turn the stomach. Child pornography spreads the violent exploitation of children into the homes of men and women who have no children of their own to abuse.

How tragic that the very people who should be loved the most are the victims of the most violent hate. A society that tolerates such abuse is a society that is sick to its core. We need to do everything we can to save the children from the violence and abuse that surrounds them.

Heavenly Father, help us to be pure and to nurture the innocence of children, and let us take heed of the warning of Your Son that those who abuse children should have a mill stone hung around their neck and be thrown to the bottom of the sea.

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