Tuesday, 28 March 2017 09:57

Those Who Obey God Honor Their Father and Mother

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I recently was in a get together with a group of married couples. There were several people who were attending for the first time, so we began by introducing ourselves. When my turn came up, I was asked to not only introduce myself, but was asked to tell my vocation story.

When one is going to talk about their own vocation, you first have to see to whom you are going to tell your story, to try to do it in such a way that what God has done in your life, will help as much as possible the people who are listening to you. I was speaking to a group of married couples and parents of Christian families, so I finished my story saying: "Look, 24 years ago I gave myself to God. Discovering and accepting my vocation was the key piece that gave meaning to my life and has made me tremendously happy. Therefore, my advice to you, fathers and mothers of families, is to work and pray to help your children discover the will of God for them. The greatest good you can do for your children is this: help them fulfill the will of God for them." I just reminded them of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church asks in number 2232: "Parents should respect this call and encourage their children's response to follow it". And in number 2233: "Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving, the Lord's call to one of their children to follow Him in virginity for the Kingdom, in the consecrated life or in the priestly ministry".

The conversation that started afterwards was very profound and interesting. Each one placed on the table- with all sincerity - their fears, their concerns and their hopes about the future, and in particular, on the vocation of their children. I believe that we all were enlightened during the time that we shared. For me, there was an idea that was made very evident. This idea is the title of this article: "Those who obey God Honor their Father and their Mother".

So many times, I have encountered, throughout my life, parents who are, more or less, practicing Catholics, but when a child expresses his/her willingness to consecrate himself/herself to God, they cling to the fourth commandment in opposition - "Honor your father and your mother" - and they interpret it with the sense of "you can't go because you have to obey us". Sad interpretation! And a sad way to use a commandment of God's law to ensure that a child does not do what God wants from him. Sad and wrong, because the fourth commandment cannot be opposed to the first: "You shall love God above all things." It is clear that honoring your parents means that you must obey them … as long as the parents are at the same time obeying God and seeking His will. If the parents are not obeying God, if they are not accepting the will of God, they cannot expect - nor much less impose- that the children follow them in their disobedience. A Christian father and mother should remember that their son honors them when he loves God above all things. And if the requirement of love that God asks me implies my total giving, I honor my parents giving myself to God.

Sometimes the pain of separation, the failure of the plans made for the child… prevents parents to see things in the light of the truth: prevents them from seeing that the vocation of their children is "an honor" for them. And they forget - or simply do not know - that there is a phrase in the Gospel that the Lord directs them at these times: "Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and they will inherit eternal life" (Mt 19, 29). This phrase was directed by Jesus to his disciples in a very special moment: just after the encounter with the rich young man, in the context of a failed vocation. The "leaving children for the sake of my name" which the Lord asks in the Gospel does not mean obviously to abandon them. It means to let them do the will of God, it means that if God calls them to leave the parental home to follow Him, the children will leave with the blessing of their parents. In exchange for that sacrifice, the son, but also the parents, will receive from the Lord a hundredfold and eternal life. If I am called by the Lord, I can't deny my parents that prize.

I remember the night that my mother died. When I finally went to bed, it was already early in the morning, I could not fall asleep. I prayed one rosary after another while thinking: "My mother has already seen the face of God, and is being judged by Love". I remember saying to the Lord: "Remember your promises, remember that You promised a hundredfold and eternal life to those who would allow a child to surrender to God". And I was glad that my mother could stand before God as the mother of a consecrated person.

During the course of that meeting, where this article was born, I told all those present there, about the testimony of a nun who had impressed me a lot. It was Sr. Guadalupe Rodriguez. When I heard Sr. Guadalupe speak, I didn't know who to admire most, her or her parents. Sr. Guadalupe has been for several years a missionary in Syria. In fact, she was in Aleppo when the so-called Civil War in Syria, in 2011, began. In Aleppo, the bombs were raining down on a daily basis and the situation was really dangerous, but Sr. Guadalupe not even for a minute thought of leaving the country. She was there in the moment in which the local Christian community needed her most. The superiors of Sr. Guadalupe accepted her decision, but asked her to talk it over with her parents, in case her staying in a country at war was going to be a situation too distressing for them. Sr. Guadalupe spoke with her parents and told them the whole situation. Her father - clearly a man of faith, replied in these terms: "My dear daughter, I am not going to deny that we are very worried about you. I am not going to deny that we shudder every time we hear the news on Syria… But asking you to return, would be like saying to God that I can take care of you better than He can. And, you know what? I'm not going to compete with God".

The words of the father of this missionary are exemplary and deserve that we stop to reflect on them with attention. No one knows your child better than God and no one wants your child as happy as He does. But truth is that no one can make her happy as God can. Although at times His ways are not our ways (Is. 8, 55), nor His plans our plans… we must recognize, Lord, that your ways are better than ours, your plans are much brighter than our plans.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls in number 2232 that "family ties, although they are very important, they are not absolute. (…) It is necessary to realize that the primary vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus (cf Mt 16, 25): "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Mt 10, 37)". Therefore, it is necessary to correctly understand the fourth commandment, and not make it an absolute in favor of interests that are not those of God. The key is no other than this: He who obeys God honors his father and mother, he who loves God above all things honors his father and mother.

Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother