Honoring Parents and Grandparents
Jul 24, 2018
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble… Israel shall dwell in security.
I cannot imagine anything worse for a child that to live in a constant state of fear. Besides food and shelter, I cannot think of a greater responsibility or need that parents and families must provide for their children than security…the emotional, psychological and above all spiritual kind.
As a parent Himself, God gets this. That is why in today’s readings He insists on providing shepherds for his people…shepherds who will not only protect their flock but in looking after them allow them to thrive in an environment of peace and security. There is then no greater shepherding role than parenting.
God entrusts specific parents to specific children with specific graces to ensure the successful giving and receiving of love, support, protection, and courage and strength when those always lurking wolves are at the doors of our homes and hearts huffing and puffing hoping to destroy our lives and our families.
The other day I heard a song popular some years back that seems to capture the frightened and broken spirit of the times we and especially children are living in, and that deep yearning for security we all have entitled Wonderful:
I close my eyes when I get too sad I think thoughts that I know are bad Close my eyes and I count to ten Hope it's over when I open them
I want the things that I had before Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door I wish I could count to ten Make everything be wonderful again
Hope my mom and I hope my dad Will figure out why they get so mad
Hear them scream, I hear them fight Say bad words that make me want to cry
Close my eyes when I go to bed And I dream of angels that make me smile I feel better when I hear them say Everything will be wonderful someday
Promises mean everything when you're little And the world's so big I just don't understand how You can smile with all those tears in your eyes
I go to school and I run and play I tell the kids that it's all okay I like to laugh so my friends won't know When the bell rings I just don't want to go home
Go to my room and I close my eyes I make believe that I have a new life I don't believe you when you say Everything will be wonderful someday
I don't want to hear you say We both have grown in a different way No I don't want to meet your friends And I don't want to start over again I just want my life to be the same Just like it used to be.
Like the child in the song or today’s psalmist it is what we all long for…what we have been created for and that is those verdant pastures where we can find repose and those restful waters where are souls may be refreshed.
In other words to dwell in the most secure and loving place of all…the House of the Lord, all the days of this life and the life to come:
Can we imagine any greater tragedies than to be homeless, orphaned, exiled from one’s homeland…the pain experienced from these kinds of losses and separations is terrible. We are no more meant to be pried away from those we love than the members of the Holy Trinity are meant to be separated from each other.
As the Eucharist reminds us…we are created for communion, for union, in other words for family. And what makes a house a home to dwell in are those who live there, love there and support each other there. God is a family of three persons dwelling in the home prepared for us called Heaven.
And not just one’s home but this includes one’s neighborhood. Nothing unnerves a parent or child more than having to live in a neighborhood made unsafe because of violence, drugs and any number of other crimes these conditions breed.
This week we celebrate the lives of Saints Ann and Joachim:
How wonderful then to consider that Jesus has grandparents! St. Joachim and St. Anne remind us of the mystery of the Incarnation: God truly became man and entered into a human family that included not only his mother Mary and father Joseph but their parents, and their parents, and their parents, all the way back to Adam and Eve.
Like all of us, Jesus was born into a web of relationships, the “cradle of life and love” that is the family. Again one of the greatest responsibilities Christian parents have to their children is instilling in them especially by way of their own daily example and role modeling is the gift of faith.
The portrait we have of Saint Ann with her daughter Mary is very beautiful and very instructive. They seem to be connected by the scroll that runs from Ann’s hands into Mary’s hands. This scroll represents Scripture and Ann’s pivotal role to expose Mary to the living Word of God who one day would be made flesh in her womb and then dwell among us and thus save us from our sins.
This gift of faith that like a torch is passed onto and received by Mary enabled her to be the perfect Mother of God and enables her to be our perfect Mother as well.
As we hear also from the rite of baptism this crucial passing on of the flame of faith that must not be extinguished by neglect, complacency and busy-ness…since it threatens to not only plunge a family deeper into the darkness of those shadowed valleys of fear…but add to an already growing darkness that seems to be descending upon our world like a thick blanket that is meant to smother us:
Parents and godparents and grandparents this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
There is nothing more powerful than the security that family love is meant to provide.
And not only for that particular home but one’s neighborhood and really the whole world for home is where the heart is and in taking our heart everywhere we go, confident of the love we have received especially by way of faith we can make this earth more a Heaven where our true home lies. And this is one of the primary points of baptism as we here from this prayer from the ritual emphasizing again the crucial shepherding roles of parents, god parents and grandparents:
You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
And then as an exclamation point of sorts on the ceremony we here this prayer directed to the parents:
God is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore there is no greater security parents can provide for their children than a sustained gift of faith...because Jesus is that security...which He has deposited into our lives, our homes and families, paying that deposit with every last drop of blood that was spilled from that Cross, from His body into the Holy Eucharist we receive at each Mass.
To belong to the House of the Lord in addition means that we are part of the ulimate neighborhood watch...being watched over, protected, enlightened and defended by all the Angels and Saints especially the Blessed Mother. And returning that protective vigilance ourselves by daily praying for one another.
As we hear from the wedding ceremony, what God has joined together let no one separate but that is what sin does…in its worst form through death…today Saint Paul talks about that reconciliation or reconnection with God in and through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ:
That he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross... for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
In God’s Body our fallen humanity and God’s redeeming divinity are joined together in a now unbreakable bond of peace and love that comes at the cost of Christ’s death on that Cross and signed sealed and delivered in full by way of the Resurrection…which initiates for us that ultimate family reunion in Heaven where there will never again be any till death do us part….One body, one home, one family, one community, one neighborhood we call Church.