There is a practice in Christian Spirituality, that suggests that, when we encounter a parable of Jesus, we imagine ourselves as one of the characters in the story. This idea is particularly popular with the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father has two sons, both of whom have, as people in our culture say, “issues.” As a spiritual exercise, each of us might ask, “Am I the rebellious, self-indulgent child or am I the stubborn, unforgiving child?” But what about the father? Well, the imagery is clear. The father is God and the children are us. What kind of spiritual exercise would have us place ourselves in the position of God? In this case, some of us should. An important element of this parable is about parenthood. For you parents, have you ever had to deal with self-indulgent, or unforgiving children, or sibling rivalry? There is a parallel. God is a Father to us who is trying to form us to be the best we can. Our first reading has the same theme. This is a snippet from the story of the “Golden Calf.” Moses has put a huge amount of effort into leading the Israelites out of Egypt, guiding them through the wilderness, feeding them, and finally bringing them to Mount Sinai. Why? On Mount Sinai is a new relationship with God. Do you parents see a common theme here? Raising children is not just about meeting their material needs. You parents, and each of our own parents, put more effort into trying to get us to have responsible, productive, full and joyful lives.
Even for those of us who are not parents, we had parents who struggled with that monumental task. The task of forming children into responsible, fulfilled, joyful adults is really beyond human capability. Our parents, you parents, you grandparents, need the help of God. That is why we go to Mass on Sunday. That is why you parents, and grandparents take kids to Mass on Sunday. I don’t have any children, but, by observation, I know that taking little kids to one hour of Mass is a project more daunting than the Normandy invasion. Why do it? Because these kids need God in their lives, and the Mass is a privileged encounter with God.
Of course, raising kids to be insightful people of integrity takes more than Mass on Sunday. For us, as adults, living an insightful life of moral integrity, takes more than Mass on Sunday, even as fundamental as that encounter with God is. This Sunday is Catechetical Sunday. Catechism is teaching the faith, but this is not just theoretical doctrine. Catechism for all of us is hearing the voice of God in the Church, who, like the Father in our parable and like God on Mt Sinai, wants to show us a better way.
But today we focus particularly on young people, well, particularly on their parents. We here at St Damien Parish have an outstanding Religious Education program, an outstanding Director of Religious Education, and outstanding teachers. We are very blessed. However, the Catholic Church has always taught that the primary responsibility for the formation in Catholic faith is with parents and grandparents (CCC 2225). This does not mean giving your children, or grandchildren, detailed discussions of theology. This means giving kids access to Christ. Take your kids to Mass. Why? Because at Mass, by the words of Jesus Christ, bread and wine truly become His Body and Blood. Pray with your kids, every day, for just a few minutes. Teach your kids (or grandkids) the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be. In the age of the internet we have the prayers and bible readings for the Mass for each day. These are a great family prayer. If you need more than 5 minutes to get through the prayers and readings for a daily Mass, you are a slow reader. When the kids get old enough, take them to Confession. Let them see you go to Confession. I know families that take the tweens to Confession and then out to have ice cream. That becomes something they look forward to (imagine!). It’s not that painful. Most people don’t need critical hospital care after Confession.
Parents and grandparents, you have a solemn responsibility to form your kids is our faith, and this is something you should really want to do. You want, for your kids and grand kids, the best that life can give. You don’t have that, but God does. What better gift can you give your kids than a relationship with God.