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A homily for the Feast of St John Bosco

Let the Children come to me!

Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to [Jesus], for him to touch them. The disciples scolded them, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome thekingdomofGodlike a little child will never enter it.’ Then he embraced them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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 “Let the children come to me.”

When we come to church we hear a lot of jargons.  Let us try to understand at least one of them.  What does ‘Jesus’ stand for?  For me, Jesus stands for ‘Wellbeing’ (a simpler word for ‘salvation’!).  He stands for ‘fullness of life!’

In Jn 10:10, Jesus says: “I have come so that [you] may have life and have it to the full!”

So in the gospel text of today when Jesus says, “Let the children come to me,” what does he mean?  To me, He simply means, “Let the children have life and have it to the full.”

To understand the meaning of fullness of life perhaps we must look to the adolescence of Jesus himself.  What was Jesus’ own childhood and adolescence like?  We do not know much about it.  But Luke succinctly summarises Jesus’ adolescence in one sentence (Lk 2:52):  “And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people.”  In other words, Jesus grew in his mind (intellectually), in his body (physically) in his heart (socio-emotionally) and in his soul (spiritually)! Growth in the four dimensions of the human person. This is life – life to the full!  This is the wish of God for every child born on the face of this earth.

But we know, so many children in the world do not get an opportunity to grow to their full stature.  They are deprived of life – fullness of life. For instance… (from www.thetrumpet.com)

  •  Every year, nearly 11 million children—about 30,000 a day—die before they are 5 years old, mostly from famine and disease.
  • Some 300,000 children in 30 countries around the world participate directly in the front lines of war. About 40 percent of them live inAfrica.
  • Out of every five girls and one out of every 10 boys in the U.S.will be sexually exploited before they reach 18 years of age!
  • at least 120 million children in developing countries between the ages of 5 and 17 work full time.
  • Currently, 10 percent of all sub-Saharan African children are orphans.
  • Worldwide, about 610,000 children under 15 years of age die from aids every year.

Numbers are staggering. They are not pleasant to hear. So I stop here.

About 150 years ago, Don Bosco found himself in a similar situation inItalywhere young people lacked the opportunity to enjoy the fullness of life. So in 1841, he began his work among young people inTurin.  When he started his oratory in a street called Valdocco – the first Salesian house – he wanted it to cater to the four dimensions of the human person.  He wanted it be…

  • A home that welcomed – catering to the emotional growth of the person;
  • A playground – facilitating the physical and emotional dimensions;
  • A school that educated – providing opportunity for intellectual growth;
  • A church that evangelised – feeding the soul.

If you look a little deeper at the time-table of your College you will notice these four aspects that are part of the Salesian heritage. This Salesian College is but one among thousands in the world.

Today,

  • 16,092 Salesian fathers and brothers, 14,655 Salesian sisters, & 24,196 Co-operators
  • in 132 countries across the globe
  • Reach out to about 3,000,000 youth in about 4000 institutions

They help these young people to come to Jesus.  They help them enjoy life to the full.

Looking back at my own life, I know, Don Bosco and his Salesians have helped me become my best self.  I entered a Don Bosco school inIndiawhen I was in Year 8.  In theDonBoscoSchool, I had the best education that I could have ever dreamt of.  We had hundreds of opportunities to develop our talents and skills.  And in 1984 when I finished my high school, I realised I owed everything to Don Bosco.  I wanted to pay it back, or rather, to ‘pay it forward’.  I wanted to offer to other young people what I had received from Don Bosco.  So I became a Salesian.  I have been a Salesian for 25 years – including the 16 years that I spent inEast Africa.  Yes, I am happy.  I enjoy fullness of life!

On this day, we thank God for Don Bosco.  We are proud of being part of that large movement of people that he launched 150 years ago. And as members of that great movement, we want to help every child on the face of the earth to go to Jesus – to have the fullness of life!

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