First Reading: Is 66:10-14c; Psalm: 66. R. v. 1; Second Reading: Gal 6:14-18; Gospel: Lk 10:1-12.17-20
THE FAMILY OF GOD ON MISSION
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The idea of mission is easily conjectured to mean ‘called and sent to preach the gospel’. This understanding is quite correct but not without a narrow perspective to the whole idea of mission. There is more to mission than preaching. Simply put, mission means ‘called to witness to Christ in our daily lives’. This could be in our homes, workplaces, in a foreign land or wherever we find ourselves. This understanding is very handy as our diocese celebrates Marriage and Family Life. A celebration that has been part of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan since 2013. In relation to this, our Bishop Peter Holiday had asked that we reflect on ‘The Family as a Domestic Church’ in this year 2022. A theme that illustrates the collaborative mission of parents and children called to prepare a home suitable for God.
The mission of the seventy whom Jesus sent out in pairs on ahead of him is comparable to the precursory task of John the Baptist. They were to till the soil for the seed of the gospel which Jesus hopes to bring. The idea of sending them in pairs would be very productive especially as Jesus prevised the possibility of their rejection. At such a time, mutual encouragement would keep them going. Jesus also apprised them of the inevitable danger of being exposed to harm just as lambs would before wolves. Notwithstanding, they would thrive in their mission if they trust in God as the sick would be healed and the kingdom of darkness destroyed. What a mission. A mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly.
No family should be evasive to this understanding to life. Life is a mixture of everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly. This was evident in the mission of the seventy. They would experience successes, blunt rejection, and threat to their lives.
A family begins when a man is joined to a woman in the sacrament of marriage. These two who are essentially one become missionaries to their own home. They become God’s emissaries to their children. The mission of parents is simply this: to prepare the hearts of their children to love God and to responsibly serve the society. This task is not as easy as it seems. Because as we try to draw our children closer to God, we may succeed or fail. The outcome is uncertain from the onset. But success becomes more likely when couples collaborate extensively in the task of parenting. And this brings us to the relational synthesis of couples in marriage.
Marriage is a relationship; a relationship of two opposite gender. Jesus recognises the effectiveness of collaborative ministry which was why he sent the seventy others out in pairs. In marriage, couples are expected to progressively bond with each other by learning and understanding one another and by tolerating their differences and making effort to grow out from toxic attitudes harmful to their union. Building this healthy structure is not only for their sake but primarily for the mental health of their children.
Of course, building this healthy relationship is not without struggles. Couples may experience alienation among themselves, short-lived affection, lack of personal disclosure which builds trust, and in some occasions divorce. This casual acquaintance kind of treatment can destroy a home, but we must not succumb to these vices but keep pushing to rebuild our relationship at least for the sake of our children. So, every couple should know that the first step towards building a healthy and God-fearing family is mutual collaboration in love.
As time goes by, God will bless us with the gift of children. This is another phase in the life of marriage that should be handled meticulously. One of the most toxic attitudes in child upbringing is parental alienation. When work, travels, meetings, promiscuity, drugs, and alcoholism separates us from our children. When a child is denied parental love or feels rejected, the child grows up as a ne’er-do-well lacking self confidence, coupled with the feelings of anger, depression, shame, sadness, anxiety, and grief. And in most cases ends up being a lone wolf. Unfortunately, loners are majorly victims of bullying in schools. This of course would further deteriorate the psychological health of the child as s/he would feel so degraded and worthless.
Some children grow up with these feelings unresolved. The resultant effect is that when again in the future they experience rejection or heartbreak in a relationship as teens, or are friend zoned or divorced in marriage as adults, they develop self hatred, feel terribly angry, worthless and depressed. This has led to homicide and suicide. So, parental love and presence should not be traded for anything in marriage.
Parents should make ardent effort in bringing up their children in the ways of the Lord; praying with them and teaching them the scriptures. The reason why this is very important is that parents only play a part in the formation of a child. The other parts of the child’s formation would be affected by the society which provides the child with education, friendship, relationship, the social media and the internet. The tension here is that the society may end up debunking all the norms and values inculcated in the child. The more reason why parents should double their efforts in building the moral life of their children by teaching them the ways of the Lord so as to build in them a strong moral foundation.
Admittedly and unfortunately, the amount of effort that parents engage in a child’s training does not always translate to what the child eventually becomes. This goes without saying that we cannot rely solely on our strength and skills in our parental duties. God must always take the lead. Having done our best, we need to commit the unforeseen possibilities into the hands of God, trusting in his fatherly care and love.
On the part of children and teens under parental care and single young adults, you need to also understand that you all are on a mission to witness to Christ in the society. You will face peer pressure, friendship and dating requests. You will be confronted with societal decadence and the ugly side of the internet. You will be told to disregard your family and religious values and follow trendy and pleasurable lifestyles. What the society will present to you will appear so adventurous and enticing like Eve’s apple. Don’t fall to these traps or throw caution to the wind. Consenting to them would only yield regret and shame. Never disregard your home training. Your parents are expectant to see you return joyfully home just like the seventy disciples in the gospel. Your parents would be proud to see that in spite of the trials, temptations, rejection, and your exposure to the wolves of the society, you came through.
Dear parents, sometimes the ugly part of life may hit us so badly as we see our children bring us shame due to some bad choices made. Don’t allow this to break your home. Accept them back as God welcomed the exiles of Israel back to Jerusalem in the first reading of today. God decided to put behind him the sins of his people Israel and taking the image of a mother, promises to nourish and care for them as a nursing mother would do to her child. It is unfortunate that some people choose to learn the hard way. If your child happens to be one, please do not deny him/her that parental care and support.
A healthy family begets a healthy church and a healthy society. As we spiritually build our homes, we are simultaneously building the Church and the society as well. The mission of building a family as a domestic church is a collective responsibility of father, mother and children. It is a delicate mission and should be treated as such; with care, reverence, diligence, commitment, conscientiousness, respect, sacrifice, and love. Whatever pain we may have to go through to achieve this, let us bear it as the mark of Christ suffering on our body.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, grant us the grace to be efficient on this mission of witnessing to you. Amen.