Sunday, 27 December 2009

Family, faith, and generosity

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. I cannot help recalling how Pope Benedict XVI told the Salesians gathered at their last General Chapter that today youth ministry is not possible without family ministry. How true!

The Feast of the Holy Family is an occasion to invite all our families to grow in faith and in generosity.

Dear married people of our parish, allow the Lord to enter into every nook and corner of your lives - especially where you find it difficult to allow him. So often we feel that the faith is boring, and that the mass and the homilies of our priests do not touch our lives. Well, they do, but then the going becomes difficult. The faith touches, for example, your decisions about the size of your families.

I once asked a priest colleague of mine in Rome how he would handle married people in the confessional who spoke about family planning. He gave me a very beautiful answer which I want to share with you. Don't speak to them directly about the law of the Church, he said; they know that very well, otherwise they would not be coming to you. Speak to them, rather, of the need to grow in faith and in generosity. Because that is the real issue: faith and generosity.

We need faith when we decide about the size of our families. Faith that life is a gift of God, that life is not in our hands, and that children are very special gifts of God. That standard of life is not everything. That allowing God to reign in our lives is really the thing.

We need generosity to accept the children that God gives.

We need faith to enable our children grow in faith. Parents are the very first faith educators of their children. Your attitudes are caught by them, they pick them up, with the mother's milk.

And we need faith, above all, to let our children find their vocations. The gospel of today is powerful: the boy Jesus has discovered his real Father, and he tells his mother and Joseph that there is no question about it, he has to be about his Father's business.

The poet Kahlil Gibran said so beautifully: Your children are not your children. They are children of life's longing for itself. They are arrows shot from your bow; but they will travel where you will not be able to go. Let them. Allow them.

Your children are not your children. They are children of God. Allow them to travel their own paths to God. And if today they hear, like young Samuel, the voice of God, do not harden your hearts: allow them, encourage them, to say Yes, Yes, Yes.

Today is my 22nd ordination anniversary, and I can't help thinking of my own parents. I am the eldest in the family. When I decided to follow my Salesian vocation, my dad was about to retire, and my brother and sister had not yet begun working. It was certainly an extremely difficult moment, but my parents did not balk. They never said a word asking me to stay back; instead, from them I have received and continue to receive only encouragement. I realize now that they made a great act of faith. Faith in the God who is the giver of Life. Faith in his generosity and his providence.

My parents are not saints by any means. But when the moment of their testing came, they were found ready. I praise God for such acts of faith and for raising up such faith among his people. And like my own parents, I know there are so many others. The parents of our young brothers, for example: so many of our brothers are now either only sons, or even sometimes only children. But their parents have made their acts of faith. God be praised.

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