Today’s readings are concerned, as we should expect, with the relationships of family life, in particular the relationship between parents and child.
In our modern society, where parental responsibility is, at times, notably and tragically lacking, there is a marked tendency for the government and society in general to “take over” from parents, and a corresponding tendency to give children rights against their parents. Such political support of, and encouragement for, children against their parents, has no parallel in the Bible. There, children have rights indeed, and Jesus Himself tells us to reverence and respect them (Matthew 18:10):
See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.St. Paul tells his converts in the Church at Corinth that:
Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for (their) parents, but parents for (their) children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)The Scriptures are not ignorant of the abusive behaviour of some parents but, notwithstanding those failings of the few, hold firmly to the best teaching and only model for the wholesome upbringing of their children by the majority of parents, as you heard in the first reading:
The Lord honours the father in his children, and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons. Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins, he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.We read in the Gospel how God Himself dealt with His Son as a human child. The Father in heaven did not communicate directly to the Infant Jesus, nor even to the young child Jesus. The heavenly Father spoke to Joseph and to Mary: they were the ones who would tell the Child and the Boy what to do and how to behave; they were the instruments of God for the Child, even though the Child was God’s own Son. Consequently, we can easily recognize the Christian attitude and teaching as regards parenthood: it is an honour and a privilege to be a Christian parent, it is a position of authority and also a position of responsibility; authority given by God and responsibility before God. In all that is good, for the spiritual and the human good (both physical and psychological) of the child, the parents have a God-given authority and also a God-given backing: they do not need to have degrees in child psychology, nor certificates in human and social studies; seeking sincerely the good of their child, in favour with God and man (as the Scriptures say of Jesus), they will be guided by God in all the normal situations of life, and even in the extraordinary circumstances where no human help can be found. No Social Services, no child experts, can supply for God-given parents, and no legislation should be allowed which insinuates otherwise; nor should parents themselves ever begin to doubt the special grace which is available to them -- through sincere endeavour and personal prayer -- for bringing up their child as a child of God and as a respectful family member and positively helpful member of society.
Parents, being aware of their position of authority and responsibility, should be ever on the watch to help each other in the acceptance and fulfilment of that position. You will recall how Mary, the mother, spoke to her Child when He had been lost for 3 days:
And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you." (Luke 2:48)Mary was concerned, first of all, for Joseph’s authority; she wanted first of all to remind her Child of the respect He owed Joseph:
His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you."“Your father and I”, that was the order of concern for Mary: Joseph’s position first, her own, second. That is a model for all parents, for the Christian husband should have as his first concern that his child should love its mother; whilst the mother, like Mary, should always first teach and inculcate the child’s obedience to and respect for the father.
Finally, today, Christian parents should recognize that they, together, are the whole basis and foundation for the well-being, spiritual, psychological and physical, of their children; consequently, they should pay close attention to the words of St. Paul in our second reading today. On no accounts should they allow their child to separate them; for the good of the child they should come first for each other (Colossians 3:12-15):
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.Remember also those other words of St. Paul:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.Those are not words of domination but of complementary co-operation for the good of the children, the words mean what I have already explained and what Mary has already shown, that the wife should be concerned that her children respect and obey their father, and she should give them an example in that attitude; and that the father, likewise, must insist that his children follow his example in loving their mother. It is on that firm and solid foundation that the other words of Paul (Colossians 3:20) will be fulfilled:
Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.People of God, we should all recognize that the Scriptures do not offer mere options for our consideration, options that we can ignore or reject as the fancy takes us; nor is the Spirit of the Scriptures subject to the spirit of modern times. Holy Scripture, with its example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, gives parents divine and authoritative guidance, together with the promise of sustaining grace and strength in response to obedience and prayer. They can indeed ignore it, they can reject it because God has made us free; but they cannot do those things without cost, for they will, most certainly, never be able to find better guidance from our modern, pagan, and self-righteous society.
The teaching and tone of this address, dear People of God, are not for anyone and everyone but for those Christians and Catholics who have entered into matrimony with a specific purpose: offering their mutual love to God for His glory, their own personal fulfilment and for the greater well-being of mankind; and they are able to aspire to such purposes on the basis of God’s sacramental grace promised and ever available to them to transfigure their human endeavours so as to serve and further the infinite goodness of God’s loving intentions and saving plans for all men and women of good-will.