December 30, 2018 - Holy Family
Three mothers are sitting on a bench, talking about how much their sons love them.
Rubilyn says, “You know this Gucci purse I always carry? It was my son, Honesto, who bought it for me for my 75thbirthday. What a good boy he is, he loves his mother.”
Marisol responds, “You call that love? You know my BMW? I just got it for Mother’s day from my son, Arvin. What a darling.”
Flor laughs, “That’s nothing! You know my son, Rodel? Twice a week he pays someone $300 an hour just so he can lie on their couch and talk to them. And who do you think he talks about at those prices? He talks about me!”
We laugh, because we know there’s some truth to the joke.
We receive our primary formation – or deformation – from our families, especially our parents, whether they are there or not.
Studies consistently show that children without one parent are more likely to have behavior problems, drop out of school, or get pregnant as teens.
The same problems can occur if a parent is emotionally distant, or absent because of work.
Of course, having both mom and dad at home does not automatically mean perfectly adjusted kids.
An emotionally or physically abusive parent can inflict tremendous damage on a child.
A child can have everything they need physically, but be starved of affirmation and approval.
A child can be spoiled by parents who refuse to set limits on their children.
Insecure parents, in their need to have “perfect” children, deny any bad behavior other adults bring to their attention.
The fourth commandment tells us to honor our father and our mother, and this is challenging for all of us at some point.
The Catechism of the Church indicates what this honor means, “As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him or her when it is for their good or that of the family.”
Luke tells us even Jesus – God made flesh - was obedient to Mary and Joseph.
But obedience has limits.
The catechism also says, “if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.”
It should be obvious that we’re talking about older children here, not six-year olds!
So kids, you can’t claim it’s a sin to do your homework or your chores.
The catechism also says, “Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them.” (CCC 2217)
When parents complain of disrespectful children, I wonder if the problem is that the parents expect their adult children to continue to be obedient.
When a child has left home and started their own life, parents need to accept they no longer have control, and that an adult child will have to live with the consequences of their choices.
“Honor your father and mother” is not just a challenge to children, it should also challenge parents.
It should be seen as a command from God to act in a way that is worthy of honor!
Do you put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience when it comes to your kids?
Do you follow the golden rule, treating them as you want to be treated?
Can they depend on you, knowing you’ll do what you promise?
Dads, do you affirm your sons with words like, “good job” or “I’m here for you.”
Don’t wait for your death bed to tell them, “I’m proud of you.”
Do you tell your daughters, “I believe in you,” “I’m blessed to be your father,” or ask “what’s on your mind?” and then listen without offering unsolicited advice?
Moms, do you teach your daughter her value is based on what’s inside, not outside?
Encourage her to make choices without validating them with an opinion poll of all her friends.
Help her to try new things, and let her know you’ll support her if she fails.
Mom, teach your son that real strength is in giving, not getting.
Help him recognize his emotions and those of others, and to learn from them.
This is not weakness, but essential to good relationships.
Parents should never forget that they are stewardsof their children.
You may refer to them as “your kids”, but fundamentally they are God’s.
This is what Hannah acknowledges in our first reading – the child she longed for she gives freely to God because she recognizes Samuel as God’s gift.
God gives you authority over your children, but it is not absolute.
Authority does not mean control or power over someone.
The word authority comes from the Latin word auctor, meaning “to cause to grow”.
That’s the role of the parent, to cause their children to grow physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
Your greatest task as a parent is to orient your child toward God, since it was for a relationship with Him that they were created.
Nothing else you do for them is as important.
Finally, did you notice that both Mary andJoseph went to Jerusalem for Passover?
Did you hear that Jesus astounded the teachers with his understanding of Scripture?
The father was obliged to teach his son the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
St. Joseph was obviously intimately involved in the religious observance of his family.
God intends this involvement, and there are consequences when it’s absent.
A 1994 study by the Swiss government examined whether parents’ religion was practiced by their children, and why or why not.
They discovered that if the father neverwent to church and the mother regularly did, only 2% of the children became regular worshippers, while 60% of the children did not attend church as adults at all.
However, if the father regularly went to church, the children were 17 times more likely to be regular church goers if mom went occasionally, and 22 times more likely if mom didn’t go at all!
It was the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determined the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.
It’s not enough for mom to take the kids to church while dad tunes into the NFL, sleeps in, or does some chores.
In the domestic church – the family – dad has to be a spiritual leader, like St. Joseph.
Your family isn’t perfect, but it can be holy, if God is at the heart of your life.
Your domestic church can be like the universal Church, a “holy Church of sinners.”
When the imperfections and sin of each member threatens to pull you apart, forgive, as the Lord has forgiven us all.
Show your children how to have a relationship with our Father in heaven, so that when your parenting drives them crazy they’ll talk to Him, instead talking about you at $300 an hour.
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