Today we are here to celebrate the childhood of Kinsey Garcia and her journey to adulthood. It is no simple task to get to this point with health and a good head on your shoulders and with faith. For this we applaud you, Kinsey, and your parents and we thank God! And now we’re here, looking ahead with you at the exciting and at times daunting road ahead.
Kinsey, one of the greatest blessings about a moment like this is the chance to look around and see the family and friends who have gathered to support you. So look around. Take them in. Never forget that life is not lived alone -- it can’t be -- we’re not built for it. God made us for each other, and you have been blessed with an abundance of love.
We care about you -- that’s why we’re here. But we’re also here because we care about how our kids become adults. As parents it’s so easy to ignore the telltale signs amid the hustle of daily life that our children are growing up: they need us less and less for their physical health, their emotional wellbeing, their mental acuity, their spiritual lives. It can be easy for us to hold on to our kids more tightly because it can be painful to recognize that we’re not needed like we used to be. So part of what we’re about today is to help Carlos, Ruben, Shannon, and Brittany let go of Kinsey a bit -- let her go, not out on her own, but into a community of support, a community of peers, a community of faith, a world community that still fights for the value of human life, even amid the more harrowing reminders of late of what happens when we forget just how much each of us is worth in the eyes of God.
Kinsey, you’re growing up! You know that. You’ve known that. It’s fun! We’re excited for you. But there’s a loss involved as well: you’re losing the special status of childhood that Jesus mentions today in our Gospel reading. “The least among all of you is the greatest” -- the children of every age are our basic and necessary hope for the future, so we do all we can as a society -- though at times it may not seem like much -- to protect kids and raise them well. There are some great things about childhood, and maybe the best is the ability to shirk responsibility when things go awry. When I was 14 I goaded my dad into driving over 80 through the desert highway rises and falls and had a great time until he was pulled over by a cop. As the officer walked up to the car, my dad turned to me as if to say, “Well?”, and I said, “You’re the responsible adult.” Ah, the teenage years.
You can try to keep pulling that off, that shirking of responsibility as long as you’d like, but you’ll notice that the person most harmed by irresponsible actions will increasingly be you. Even more disturbing, as you become more powerful -- as you drive the roads, as you vote, as you buy food and clothes, as you gain fans and followers, as you perhaps even become a mother some day -- others will also be affected by your choices. Those are the heart-quickening and energizing facts of adulthood. The world grants you more and more power.
That can be a heady proposition. And sometimes, a disappointing one. Remember through it all that what you do, for better or worse, does not change one undeniable, unbelievable fact that if you can trust it will change your life: God loves you and won’t stop loving you for no other reason than who you are, a beloved child of God. God doesn’t care how much you weigh, how many friends you have, what college you go to -- God just cares about you. I know, it’s nuts. But you, and every person in this church, every person in this world, is worthy of God’s love.
Enjoy tonight’s celebration and the Latino heritage it affirms. Every blessing to you on this road ahead.