Maturity and Responsibility

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in the Lord Jesus,
the inability to make commitments, unwillingness to live up to responsibilities, this is common in today’s world. Marriage is delayed, people living together, because no one can make a commitment; fathers of families continue carrying-on like the bachelors they still wish to be; many other features of modern life are driven by a lack of Christian maturity.
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Maturity has been described as a balance between a person’s own desires and the needs of others. In his book, Psychology of the Cross,[i] Father Emmett Carter says that in each of us is the ‘Will to Power,’ this instinct to get what we want, to do what we want; little children can only think of what they want; but there are childish adults as well, who are focused only on their own desires, unable to adjust themselves to the needs of others in their life.
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But for the mature, well-adjusted person, he has learned that his own desires must sometimes be set aside, for the good of others – or for what is noble.
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Today in the Gospel, St. Peter shows some immaturity. When Jesus speaks of the Passion that he must go through, Peter says: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” But he is not thinking of the greater good of everyone else; of the very mission and purpose of Our Lord’s Life, Peter wants the easy way.
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In the comfort-seeking world of today, there is a lot of focus on ourselves, and “Our Needs;” but when the needs of others press upon us, there is often irresponsible behavior, an avoidance of duty, an avoidance of the cross.
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I’m sure everyone here knows some people who are irresponsible, who neglect their duties.
I saw a mother with her teenage son at a restaurant, that’s good right? Except that she said hardly a word to him, she was texting on her phone the whole time. I felt sad for that child. This is not responsible.
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There are people at work who pretend not to see their voicemail message; or they avoid their boss who might have work for them, or pretend to be sick to avoid a difficult presentation – We’ve seen more and more today, terrible service by people in stores – who seem uninterested in a job well done, or in their customers. A lack of responsibility.
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Recall the story Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan where this man is injured. And those various people who have excuses of why they must avoid helping the man. These are not responsible persons. The Lord is telling us, we have to step up to our duties.
Psychologists say that the time of immaturity in youth is a time for experimental play, without serious consequences, a time to explore. But this is what many wish to continue doing, keeping all their options open, just having fun. Being responsible can come later. For many, college has become an extension of adolescence; 4 more years until we get serious.
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It’s true, many of the saints led irresponsible lives for a while. St. Augustine took 33 years to get serious. It took St. John of God 42 years to become responsible. At least they did. But it is not the first part of their life that we admire.
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James Stenson[ii] who writes about raising children says that a child’s moral development comes down to this: moving from self to others. Children are self-centered, mature adults are other-centered.
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Because other people have rights, this leads to our obligations. We have a duty to drive safely because people on the highway have a right to safety. Parents who gave us life and raised us, have a right to be honored. Because God created us and saved us, we have the duty to love, obey, and even praise him. We have duties toward other people.
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Mature people center their lives on their responsibility toward others, not on their own desires. Immature people avoid responsibility and focus on their own wants. A mature government official thinks of what is good for his country, not himself. A responsible wife thinks of her husbands needs, a husband – his wife’s needs; and both sacrifice for their children. 
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You know, St. Peter is an example of someone who was not ready to accept responsibility, he feared hardship, the cross. When he had a chance to die with Christ, he instead denied him 3 times – to a girl.
But see later the mature Peter; the St. Peter who leads the others, who teaches the people regardless of danger. And dies a martyr.
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Responsible people carry out their duties no matter how they feel. A man who is mature, who is a father of a family, carries out his obligations even if he is tired.
And, the responsible person lives with the consequences of his actions. He does not play the victim, or blame others, or shirk his duties.
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And perhaps the key feature of a mature person, is that he keeps his promises, come what may – no matter what. People today skip appointments if something better comes along they do not even call. It is God’s will that we be mature, responsible, Christians. But how can we help others be responsible? How can we help our children?
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One way is to let children see examples. They should see their parents being responsible, not living a life of entertainment, but focused on duty, sacrificing for each other, and above all, trying to please Jesus Christ.
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There is something else that has a strong effect on inspiring people to be responsible. It is affirmation, encouragement. Dr. Conrad Baars says, people ‘are incapable of being emotionally mature adults unless they first have received authentic affirmation from another person'[iii]
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James Stenson[iv] says that parents should encourage and praise their children. ‘Don’t give up yet, try it again.’ ‘You’re almost there, try one more time.’ ‘You did your best, I’m proud of you.’
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‘How much this phrase means to children, ‘I’m proud of you.’ Children need encouragement and praise. But this goes for everyone. Most people flourish when they feel the respect and confidence of others.[v]
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When that store clerk is apathetic and uninterested in his customer, it might be a good guess that he does not feel appreciated by his boss; has not been praised or encouraged for anything. St. Paul says, encourage one another and build each other up.
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How often, parents see their child who seems to have no initiative; but then he obtains a part-time job and is entrusted with real responsibility, it can instantly change him.
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St. Peter became a responsible and great disciple; it was because Jesus showed confidence in him. Peter, ‘Feed my sheep.’   ‘But Lord, I’ve failed you a lot…. ‘Feed my sheep!’ ‘You can do it!’
Showing a person that he is valued and trusted, and given responsibility – this affirmation can help a person mature overnight.
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St. John Bosco, who reformed thousands of problem boys, he used to say: ‘Trust a boy even if he does not deserve it; then you will make him trustworthy.
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May the Blessed Virgin encourage us, to praise the Lord by embracing the duties of daily life, as worthy children of God.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Luke]

 

[i] Psych. of the cross, 80

[ii] Lifeline, James B. Stenson, p. 93

[iii] Dr. Conrad W. Baars. See Healing the Unaffirmed.

[iv] Lifeline, p. 97-98

[v] Psych. of the Cross, 27

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