Children. That children may be respected, loved, and never exploited.
We become holy simply by becoming one with Jesus Christ. When we feel his love for others, we unite with him in the suffering that love entails, especially as we think about the millions of exploited children throughout the world. The love of Christ within us moves us to tears for these suffering children.
Pope Benedict asks us to turn our love for abused children into prayer. He asks us to offer ourselves every day this month as we join in his intention that all children may be respected and loved, never exploited.
In December we remember the birth of Jesus. God showed his love for us by becoming flesh to save us. As a little child, Jesus invites our love and so dignifies children everywhere. The International Labor Organization estimates that about 1,800,000 minors between 8 and 18 are exploited as soldiers, forced laborers, and sex slaves throughout the world.
This number does not take into account the millions who are victims of abortion. Nor does it take into account the millions who are secretly abused by those who should be protecting them.
As a man, Jesus invited children to come to him, even when his disciples tried to turn them away. Did they think that children might be a waste of the Lord’s time? Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In a nearby passage he explains why. “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me” (Matthew 19: 14; 18:4-5).
Do we recognize Christ in every child? Jesus defends them: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
In praying for the exploited children of the world, we truly enter into the Heart of Christ. The will of his Heart is that not one of these little ones be lost.
How can you protect a child from exploitation?
Matthew 19:13-14 — Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Christ, Light of the World. That during Christmas the peoples of the Earth may recognize the Incarnate Word as the light that illuminates every person, and that every nation may open its doors to Christ, the Savior of the World.
Scripture tells us that on a dark day during a dark era of human history the Light entered the world. The Light came “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born, and the world would never be the same.
Pope Benedict asks us to pray this month that the people of the world will be open to this Light, that they will recognize in Jesus the Word made flesh.
Jesus is everything that the Father wanted to communicate to us about himself. Jesus spoke the words of his Father, and he did the will of his Father in everything. His enlightening word to a dark and doubting world was that God is Love, and there is no darkness in him.
Because Jesus was fully human as well as divine, he also showed us what it means to be human. To be human is to recognize the infinite worth of oneself and of others as children of God. We are still sinners enduring a dark and fallen season, but we know we have been saved as we await the redemption of the whole earth. We were made for eternal life with God, whose kingdom will have no end. He is coming back in glory, and we shall be like him.
In the meantime we proclaim him as the Savior of the whole world — all nations, all races, all classes, all ages. He saves us from sin and death. We proclaim him boldly to those who do not know him yet, but without arrogance, for we are sinners saved by his marvelous grace.
Jesus is the Light who shines on everyone. We pray that all people of all nations will open their hearts to the Light of God. May the Light continue to shine into the darkness and lead all God’s children home.
Do you know the song children sing, “This little light of mine — I’m gonna let it shine”? How will you let the Light of the World shine in your life?
Isaiah 9:1,5 — The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone…. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
Prayer of the Month
Blessed Mary, you promised the children of Fatima that “in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” May it be so! May love triumph over hatred, solidarity over division, and peace over violence. May the love you
bore your Son teach us to love God with all our hearts. May Jesus bless the children who suffer throughout the world with health and peace. Most of all, may they know that they are loved with a boundless love: the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.
-from a prayer of Pope Benedict at Caritas Children’s Hospital in Bethlehem, 2009