A parent is never alone

Tom Bartolomeo
4th Sunday Advent C 2013
Micah 5: 1-4a; Psalm 80;
Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-45
Reproduced with Permission

For a parent is anything more joyful than the birth of a child or more tragic than the death of a child especially the untimely death of a child. A parent should not have to bury his child, yet that was the experience Elizabeth and our Blessed Mother had. But a parent is never alone. Children in time become parents themselves and carry life and the life of their parents into eternity. Our Lord made that most evident when he willed his son to his mother, "Woman behold your son" and "Son behold your mother", John 19, 26-27. It seems most tragic, however, when parents bury their own children which experience we were all drawn into in last week's multiple deaths of young school children including the death of the young man responsible for the their deaths besides his own.

Even more tragic, if that is possible, are the untimely deaths of so many other adolescents, nearly a million every year who take their own lives, a phenomenon most evident in recent years. We may believe we are connected, "no man is an island", expressed so eloquently by John Donne two centuries ago, that "We are all part of the main [land]" and that "Everyman's death diminishes me", Meditation XVII; but the man who takes his own life in the process of killing others is an irony of ironies. He believes he is alone as everyone else like bodies lost in outer space, disconnected from any galaxy of stars, tumbling in the darkness, disoriented, neither knowing right from left or right from wrong--tumbling in the darkness, aimlessly. Motion without purpose and a life without meaning.

How did we get to such a place, older children killing younger children? Injure any part of life from conception to abortion, from insult to injury, from murder to war and one severs one strand of life after another until the whole of life is severed, our relationship with each other and our relationship with God who first commanded "thou shall not kill". Soon the isolated tragedy becomes normal while we seek to empower another person, society or government as god almighty to repair our failings. On the other hand, if we revere human life as "endowed by our Creator" as stated in our nation's Constitution then the peace God brought "to men of good will" will make Christmas day and everyday blessed. The message is as old as Sacred Scripture spoken by the prophet Isaiah, "Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near", Isaiah 55, 6.

Though arguably helpful, laws restricting the use of weapons may deter some acts of violence but the challenge remains, restoring the sanctity of life for so many. Perhaps, we are spared more sorrow than we deserve not hearing of many other atrocities among us. We realize, too, that - call them what they are - sins against ourselves may continue without our care for each other. For each of our soul's sake and our society's sake we are called to serve one another in the model of Jesus Christ seeking his way and his truth leading to our salvation, individually and culturally.

As people of faith, hope and love we are called to a standard much higher than our earth bound culture's which values of excessive personal independence and autonomy, comfort and wealth are bankrupting the treasure Christ promised us and we receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life, Mark 10, 30-31.

Too many parents have traded away their personal responsibility of their children to hired surrogates. "Dinner's in the fridge. I have a meeting to go to. See you kids later." Leave the work of raising children to daycare, to schools and, yes, to church. Nature, however, rebels against such accommodations in our relations to God and family. In greeting his own family and neighbors Jesus pointed to each of us our responsibility: And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother", Mark 10, 49-50.

Parents are charged with the responsibility of modeling good marriages and raising their children for good marriages, and never-mind the secular remedy of "no fault" divorce." When a brother asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?" or a mother and father ask, Am I my son's or daughter's keeper?--God does not have to reply. The answer, "Yes" is evident, cf. Genesis 4, 8-11. When Christ was asked by the world's power, "What is truth", he did not reply. The answer was evident. The truth Jesus "witnessed" he answered with his life, cf. John 18, 37-38.

We could, of course, resort to prevalent popular notions that sins are not sins but mistakes - diseases, mental or emotional disorders we can treat with medication or psychology. Then we substitute questionable professional intervention and guesswork for a loving personal relationship of a mother and a child, of a father and a child. Humans, our species, are the most complicated creatures in God's world often taking a lifetime to mature especially psychologically and emotionally. The succession of one generation to another is much, much longer than other living species and requires constant attention from birth through adulthood. We are rational and willful creatures prone to sin requiring guidance. A parent is never alone and separate from his offspring.

From the beginning of Jesus' human life God tells the story of a constant inspired human intervention including John the Baptist's heraldry before Christ's ministry began. No flawed professional or government intervention, psychologist or social worker, can compare to the devotion of a God-fearing person, parent, relative or neighbor. Mary was not told by God's angelic messenger to assist Elizabeth with child but she chose to "go in haste" to assist her elderly cousin. Elizabeth and Zechariah were not specifically told by God's angelic messenger to prepare their son "to bear witness to the light" and be "the prophet of the Most High . . . to go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation", but they choose to support their son's vocation as he grew of age. Parents are called to support the vocations of their children. "Are you exempt, Father, 'to go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation'?" Pray God, we all go together before the Lord, willingly and happily for the children's sake.