"Greet one another with a holy kiss" is a phrase repeated about five times in the letters of the New Testament.
At school drop-off, my heart rejoices when I see children, tweens and teens spontaneously embrace and kiss a parent and give a farewell before embarking on their school day. This spontaneous expression of affection is essential for children because it reinforces in the minds of both parent and child that 'I value you' for who you are, not for what you can do or give me.
In the media, politics, work, sport, education and online, it seems that materialistic and impersonal assumptions about life mean that a person’s value is given, in our society, by their function or achievements, not their being. If a person has no function, they have no value. Such materialism is clearly contradicted by love in all forms (partner, parent, sibling, friend, even your dog’s love for you!) as a valid interpretation of the value of human life. However, materialistic and impersonal assumptions about who we are are ubiquitous in the media and, in particular, advertising and social media, and so are deeply rooted in our consciousness. “If you wish to have value, you must look like this, own this, dress in this way,” says the digital world to us all, every day. We have value as a consumer, but not as a person. So, without explicitly referencing the uselessness of the poor, sick, disabled, young, old, addicts etc, we silently pity them.
This weight of expectation of achievement is particularly heavy during Years Eight to Ten. During this time, indeed all our lives, this burden can only be lifted by another person who sees us, as we are, accepts us, and values our presence, our life, our being, as Jesus did, as friends do. So, children and parents, keep supporting one another with that 'kiss of peace.'
Parental support is vital for tweens and teens, however, the time comes, as children grow into adulthood, when they need more than parental affirmation to value their being. That’s the time when tweens and teens need their peers to see, know and value them as they are and not for what they do or can give. Friends are essential partners in life. Parents, do what you can, pray for your children and be a mentor to them on how to be an adult who sees and respects others independently of the factors our society sees as important. Tweens and teens, choose your friends well.
Finally, prayer and communion are the most powerful antidotes to the corrupting materialism of our age. That is why the kiss of greeting in the earliest Christian worship services was called ‘holy,’ because when you reach out to another person, you are touching the ‘holy.’
In the kiss of greeting, each follower of Jesus, in the power of Jesus’ Spirit, embodies and offers Jesus’ acceptance of the holy other. This makes the 'kiss of peace' an enacted, embodied gift of God’s grace. Embodied love.
Speaking of prayer in Jesus, John Main writes, “In that realisation of mutual presence, of communion, the divine transcendence occurs, and we are swept away from the netherworld of self-centredness into the infinite energy and complete fulfilment of the reality who is Love.”
Rev Rod Marsh | Chaplain