November 30, 2018

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Humility helps parents see their children as prophets of God

Sean GallagherThe life of parents is a mysterious paradox.

On the one hand, God has given parents authority over their children. They’re in charge of their household. But they’re placed in this position not to lord it over their children, but as part of their responsibility to place them firmly on the road to becoming saints.

On the other hand, God has placed children in the lives of their parents to help them be drawn closer to him, to open their eyes to his presence in their everyday lives.

This paradox at the heart of parenthood reveals how it is a divine calling from God, who both infinitely transcends us and is closer to us than we are to ourselves.

Advent is a good time for parents to reflect on the profound mystery bound up in their calling. In the first part of this liturgical season, the Church places a lot of attention on the role of St. John the Baptist in preparing God’s people for the first coming of Christ.

Every day, faithful Catholics around the world pray in Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours the words of Zechariah at the time of the naming of his newborn son, John the Baptist: “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High” (Lk 1:76).

What Zechariah proclaimed about his son is true for all children. If we parents gaze upon these gifts of God to us with the eyes of faith, they will make our lives a perpetual Advent, opening our eyes to the coming of Christ in the most ordinary events of everyday life.

I reflected on this blessed reality suggested in the words of Zechariah more than 16 years ago in the first installment of this “Faith and Family” column, which I wrote shortly after the baptism of our firstborn son, Michael.

He is now 16 and a junior in high school. God later blessed my wife, Cindy, and I with four more sons, who now range in age from 13 down to 5.

No matter what age a child is, he or she remains a prophet of the Most High for their parents. As they grow and experience the blessings and crosses fitting for each stage of life, parents are in a privileged position to witness how God is present in their lives and cares for them in the mysterious ways of providence.

And even though parents have authority over their children, they must nurture a strong sense of humility in their relationship with them. This helps them to be open to what God in their children seeks to prophetically communicate to them.

If they approach their relationship with their children solely from a position of authority, they will be deaf to the word that God speaks to them through their young ones and blind to the face of Christ glimpsed in them in life’s joys and sorrows.

I speak well about this because, even after 16 years as a parent, I still struggle daily with this deafness and blindness.

God, however, in his mercy, has given me more time to be open to the workings of his grace. Yet I and all parents would do well to remember that this time will end at a moment that we do not know.

The coming weeks of spiritual preparation for Christ’s first coming are a reminder to us that we live in a continual Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord, either at our death or in his glorious second coming. †

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