Sunday, December 15, 2013

A diamond or a lump of coal

Last Sunday, one of our parishioners asked me a question that many parents are asking today.  She asked:  “What do I say to my adult children when they ask me why we didn’t just let them choose their faith when they became adults?  That is a very good question for all of us parents.  Should we, as parents, pass our faith onto our children? 

As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, in the first century they baptized entire families.  Why did they baptize children when they were young before they were able to choose faith for themselves? 

Then, as now, the prince of evil, the devil, is a strong influence in the world.  If we are not raised in the faith of Jesus Christ and educated in that faith, we will likely fall for something else.  We are exposed to secularism, materialism, and consumerism as we are encouraged to do our own thing, to look out for number one, and if it feels good do it.  In short, we are constantly exposed to the lies of the evil one.  And he has a strong grip on our society today as he seduces many with his lies. 

As parents, we want what is best for our children.  And we want the best for them not just in this life but in the next one.  So, we give them the gift of baptism, a precious gem, a diamond when they are infants.  This makes them one of God’s adopted children, a member of His Church, and opens them to sanctifying grace.  But, our world doesn’t portray this gift as a diamond.  Instead, it is presented as a lump of coal.  And it is our job as parents to continually proclaim this faith, to shine this diamond, to encourage our children, and to help them see it as a priceless gift.  We do this by educating them in the faith, and by living our faith day in and day out. 
If we don’t live our faith, our children will see faith through the eyes of the world, that is, though the lies of the evil one.  They will see our faith presented as a burden, as a blight on society, in the worst possible way, now and throughout its history.  In short, our society will portray this precious gift not as a diamond, but as a lump of coal.

Faith can be a fleeting thing as we hear in today’s Gospel.  While in prison, John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask: “are you the one who is to come.”  In other words, “are you the Messiah, the Savior, the one who Is to establish the kingdom of God in our land, or are we still waiting for someone else?”  Jesus didn’t reply by saying that he was the Messiah.  Instead, he pointed to his miracles as evidence.
John had lept with joy within his mother’s womb when Mary came to visit.  At Jesus baptism in the Jordan, John had pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Why is he asking: “are you the one who is to come?”

Perhaps John was feeling discouraged, locked up as he was, possibly contemplating his own execution.  John could have been asking in effect, “If you’ve come to ‘proclaim liberty to captives’, to set God’s people free, what am I doing here in prison?”  Was John discouraged, was he losing faith?  Or was he asking this question to strengthen the weak faith of his disciples.  We don’t know the answer to that question.  But as parents we can relate to John if he was trying to strengthen the faith of his disciples. 

As parents, how do we pass the faith, weak as it may be, onto our children?  Should we just let our children choose for themselves when they get older?  This clearly is a cop out.  This is avoiding our responsibility as parents.  Our primary responsibility as parents isn’t to raise great athletes, scholars, or outstanding businessmen or women.  Our primary responsibility as parents is to lead our children to heaven, to bring them to eternal life.  If we abdicate that responsibility, we have ignored our most important job.
What do we do as parents if our adult children stray from the faith?  We can follow the lead of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine.  When St Augustine turned away and ridiculed the faith of his holy mother, she didn’t attempt to argue with him.  Instead, she prayed him back into the faith by continually offering her prayers and sacrifices to bring him back.  And she also sought the help of others, especially St Ambrose. 

And we must remember the message of St James in the second reading today.  We need patience.  We cannot expect this miracle to happen in our time.  It may take months or years for the Lord to rescue our children from the grips of the evil one.  In fact, we might not even witness it during our lifetime.  But, like John the Baptist and his disciples, we must cling to our faith as we rejoice and await the upcoming birth of our Savior.

So today, on this Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, let us rejoice.  Let us rejoice for our own precious faith, for this beautiful diamond.  Let us rejoice for the faith of those in our community, and for the gift of family.  And let us rejoice for the miracles of Jesus, especially for the miracle of the Eucharist, as we await His birthday.