Once when I was traveling by bus to Thanjavur, I saw a Hindu holy man traveling with his disciple. They sat a few seats in front of me. The disciple's eyes were focused on his Guru right through the journey. Now and then the Guru spoke to him and I was watching how attentively the youth listened and reflected on what he heard.
All of us get a God experience from someone who has one. What kind of God? Shop keeper with whom I bargain? Insurance salesman with whom I take out a policy to get into heaven when I die? Policeman/Judge who is watching to pounce on me when I make a mistake? Security Blanket when I am in trouble and need comfort?
Vicky grew up in a home where there was a lot of sermonizing, moralizing, strictness, forced attendance at daily Mass, caning and belting. He hated his father. He identified God as father with his human father. Vipin is afraid of God and stays distant from him.
Robert made the First Fridays and says the Divine Mercy prayer to be in God's good books and at the same time cheats on his wife and makes a lot of money through bribery and corruption. He hopes will be saved because of his prayers on 1st Fridays and at 3 p.m.
Stella never misses the Novena to remind Mary to instruct God what she needs. She has various prayers to the Infant Jesus, St Anthony and St Jude to get what she wants. But she does not read the Bible or reflect on what God is saying to her through his Word.
As a family each one can answer these questions:
- Do I know Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord of my life?
- Is he living in my heart? "With Jesus in my heart, what have I to fear?"
- Do I keep in mind that Jesus has died for me on the cross and washed away all my sins?
- Do I really believe that there is power in his blood? Or am I scrupulous?
- Is the Holy Spirit someone real and alive to me everyday in all the situations I face? Do I need him and allow him to lead me?
- Is the Father a loving Abba, who carries me in the hollow of his hand and provides for me in all my needs?
If we do, then our family is truly blessed because we will catch Jesus from each other. We who are Religious and Priests were born and raised in families where the faith was strong. Do we continue to pray likewise in our communities now?
Our faith must carry over into life by the values we live
St James tells us that faith without works is dead. But our good works are not isolated acts to buy God's approval. They flow from our values.
- What is a value? It is something I choose from among alternatives, treasure, make a part of my life by repetition and for which I am willing to make significant sacrifices.
- Some Gospel values parents can give their children by the example of their lives are : Love, patience, forgiveness. kindness, service with a smile, compassion for the poor, generosity, tranquility that flows from practicing the presence of God.
- We may discard certain practices as we grow up. But the values we imbibed will remain and perhaps seek new forms of practices.
- Gospel and worldly values are opposed and contradict each other. Some that are prevalent today are:
- We cannot have two masters: God and Mammon. In many homes, in order to provide their children the best, both spouses feel the need to earn money outside the house. There could be ways of earning that are compatible with being at home or being at home when the children come back from school. Job satisfaction and career enhancement for the house wife may not be the same as if she pursued a career outside the home..
- We have Day Care centers when our children are small and old age homes when our parents are old. We are too busy earning, to look after them. Care-givers can be employed. But they cannot take the place of parents or loving children.
- When contraception fails, abortions are on the rise; Fear of pregnancy, affairs in the work-place, couples too busy and stressed up to enjoy their conjugal relationship --- which has deeper meanings than sexual satisfaction, e.g. affirmation, I need you, I forgive you, I comfort you, I love you. Spouses are chosen and empowered to be channels of God's love to each other and to their children, when they have time for them.
- Values of caring, sharing, bearing one another's burdens T.V. internet, media are bringing in contrary values in an insidious way. A friend of mine told me that his teenage children wanted to watch a program called The Bold and the Beautiful. He agreed provided that there would be a discussion after seeing it, as to the values they saw presented. How consonant were these values with what they believed as Christians?
Parenthood : Conceiving and Nurturing life
When a child is conceived and brought forth into this world, he needs to be nurtured for a long time by both parents. He needs the security of having both parents united in love. Some couples today want to give their children the best that money can provide. So their decision may be:
- Limit our family to only 1 or 2 children.
- Pamper them and send them to schools where they will get excellent results. But what other values and life-styles will they also pick up?
- In order to provide children with the best, both parents may have to work outside the home and as a result, have little or no times for spouse and children.
- One spouse goes abroad to work and sees his children only once a year when he comes for holidays.
- They forget they are spouses and focus on being parents. So their children do not have the benefit of their sacrament of matrimony. They do not see the witness of their couple love.
We need family cells in every parish that will build up truly Christian homes, where families can be united in faith and love, as the sacrament of matrimony is lived and bears witness to a God who is Love.