A PARENT'S PRAYER
Thanks as always for reading & all your feedback. God Bless, Fr. Jim
One of my closest friends from college was out to visit a couple of weeks ago, as she did a whirlwind weekend visiting a bunch of classmates spread throughout this Northern area of NJ. To me she’s the epitome of a “Renaissance woman” who is brilliant in a number of fields; Theology, English, History - and now at the age of 38 she has delved into the sciences with the hopes of becoming a Physicians Assistant. How she’s been able to keep current, and engaged in these fields while being married 17 years (she married her high school sweetheart before our Senior year of college; after being able to finish her 4 year degree in 3) and raising and home schooling 4 kids - really is amazing to me. Truly, I admire Teresa. And knowing her and all her varied interests and pursuits, I know that of all the things that are important to her, the thing that means the most to her are her four kids. (I think I was almost shocked when we were talking last week and she said her oldest is preparing to go to college in a year!)
Teresa is a great mom, she tries to do all the best that she can for her kids. Cooks the right foods, takes them for their regular checkups, and like I said, she even home schools them – not for any political reason or anything, but simply because she loves to do it and thinks its one of the most important things she can do for them. She shares time with them in their hobbies, joins them in community service. It’s really beautiful to see and hear her fulfilling her vocation as a mother and a wife in laying down her life for her family and using all her gifts and talents to draw out what is best in them. Over the years we've had some really meaningful conversations where – despite my being enamored by how she does what she does seemingly so naturally, so instinctually – she shared how tough it is to be a parent.
Like when her 8 year old was becoming more independent, and she was concerned about him going out on his own – how she was worried he wouldn't wear the “uncool” helmet she and her husband had told him to always to wear when biking. She worried that he might be swayed by the other boys, who would encourage him to take risks and try something dangerous. She worried that she would smother the little guy who was starting to grow up and she worried about the balance between over-mothering and being afraid DYFS would show up claiming she neglected her kids. And now as that same boy is looking at colleges, she’s already taking a break from her own studies to make herself more available to him as he makes this big life transition from teenage-hood to young-adulthood. Once when we were talking about all of this, I was really blown away by the difficulties of being a parent and I said to her, “So how do you deal with this, without driving yourself completely crazy?” And almost instinctively she said “I pray” - and she was being completely serious. She said, “At the end of the day, I try to be the best Mom I can be, I hope John is the best Dad he can be; and I pray that, when they are on their own, my kids will know what to do.”
With graduation taking place on the campus I serve at as “Campus Minister,” as a “Father” to a lot of kids that I’ve grown to love and care about over the last 4, 5 (do I hear 6? years) those thoughts about Teresa came to mind. I’ve found that it’s been a tremendous blessing for me to serve this way and grow as attached to these kids as I have... but now I can relate to a bit of her experience. Wondering, worrying, hoping and ultimately praying that, after working with them over the years - that their relationship with Jesus Christ has grown enough - that they will continue to grow deeper in their relationship with Him; that they will continue to be connected to the Catholic faith we share; that the time spent in campus ministry will be fruitful in their hearts and souls; and that when they go out on their own, they will know what to do, as well.
These thoughts ran through my mind reading today’s Gospel, because in a sense, that’s what Jesus is doing. Here we are on the last Sunday of Easter (next Sunday the season of Easter will conclude with the Feast of Pentecost). And the Gospel passage comes from Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, before his Passion begins. And what is it on his heart and mind? It’s a theme we’ve been hearing for the last few weeks - this desire for unity, this hope for our remaining in Him and His remaining in us. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus takes that a step further and also reveals some of his concerns.
He’s praying that his followers will not be corrupted by the world. He’s praying that they will not be pulled apart from one another as a group, and even more that they won’t be lured away from the Father, becoming something he knows they’re not. He knows the great capacity of each of His followers to bring the very Life and Love of the Lord to the ends of the earth. But, at the same time, he knows that’s a choice every follower will have to make (and renew almost daily) for that possibility to become a reality - because the possibility also exists for them to betray, deny or abandon Him. To forget everything he ever said; everything he ever did.
He’s saying this prayer at the Last Supper and Jesus knows that things are going to change very dramatically in the days and weeks to come. He realizes he won’t be there to protect, guard even gently correct his disciples - the ones he loves the most - as he had done before. And so he offers this confident prayer that the example, the lessons and challenges he’s created for them will have taken root, and that his disciples will know what to do.
We who have been entrusted with the Gospel message through our Baptisms, and commissioned to preach that message through our Confirmations, are the ones he prays for today - that we too will be consecrated to the truth of his words and that, when we are among the world on our own, we will know what to do.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern