Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon
“Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth.” - Eph : 6:2-3
Today we celebrate Parents’ Day, the feast of St Anne and Joachim. To all the parents listening to us, warm greetings of blessings. Let long life be your reward.
With a grateful heart, we praise and thank the Lord for the gift of our parents. We tasted God’s love first time through our parents. This Sunday is a Sunday of Gratefulness, a Sunday of unconditional love. Praise be the God our Father.
We are also come here to kneel on our knees to pray for affected parents.
We remember those elderly parents who are victimized by the pandemic. We pray today with stretched out hands for those elderly parents who had to be left alone in the isolation wards, ICU wards, to struggle with their last moments during this pandemic. We also pray for those parents who are buried without the presence of their dear and near ones.
For those of us blessed to have our parents still alive, this Sunday is a great day of thanksgiving. Christianity approaches God in family terms. God is not the monotheistic monitor, demanding total slavish obedience. Jesus taught us about the “Father in heaven” whose love is unbounded.
The Bible portrays God as the Father of all of us. It was he who created us out of nothing. He was the one who blew the power of the spirit into us. He is the father and mother of all human beings. He was the one who marked us “before the creation of the world” and said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you before you were born I set you apart.” (Jer. 1:5).
Our parents may not have chosen us, but God chose them to be our parents. The Lord promises, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:18).
Parents are the image of the living God. Thus in the Ten Commandments, (Exodus 20:2-17 and Deut. 5:6-21), the fifth commandment urges us to “Honor Your Father and Mother”.
The first reading tells us how wisdom and ability to discern good from evil, must play the central place. Like Solomon who requested God only for Wisdom to govern his people, parents and children in the family needs to look for wisdom to understand one another.
The second reading guides us to the infinite value of human dignity that should be our guiding our star in our family. Each one of us is created in the image of God. Parents and children need to treat one another as the image of God.
God created the first family to share his love. Because of the family humanity has survived and thrived. The Gospel asks each one of us to treat the family as the treasure that is so precious we are willing to sacrifice anything else to get that pearl of immense value.
On this day let, us see how God’s Word sees the role of parents and children.
Parents Role in nurturing a Christian Family
1. God is love and parents need to be God’s messengers of Love:
God told Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). Jesus said, “For the Father, Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (John 16:27)… and, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19)… And, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father” (John 10:14-15). Jesus wanted to know and be known by those He called to follow Him, because He sincerely loved them. Therefore, parents must be willing to love and become involved with the children. Be with the children and spend time with the children.
2. Parents are the evangelizers of children
The life of the parents is the first Bible to the children. Like Jesus taught his disciples, the parents need to communicate Jesus. The Father models the truth as an example. This is why Jesus came into this world to reveal the Father’s heart and demonstrate His love (John 13:15). Being an example to your children is one of the most powerful and authoritative teaching tools you possess as a parent. Be an example to your children of love, truth, mercy, grace, and giving. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all thing that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). (Prov. 4:3-4).
3. A nurturing, guiding role of the parents in moral life of children.
From the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve the freedom to eat of any of the trees of the Garden (Gen. 2:16-17). He did not dictate these issues. However, He did communicate a moral boundary so they would not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Parents must draw clear moral boundaries
Five Duties of Children to Parents:
1. Children have the duty of honoring and respecting father and mother.
Children are to show this honor in a respectful attitude toward their parents. Honoring the parents is done through the appreciation of their efforts in bringing up the children, their sacrifices and their unselfish decision to have children and bring them up through great difficulties. According to St Paul, those who do honor their parents have a special promise. Among the ten commandments only one commandment has a promise if observed: That is the fifth commandment of honoring parents. Those who honor the parents will enjoy a healthy and long life.
“Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth.” Eph. : 6:2-3
2. Children have the duty of obeying father and mother.
The new Christians had a clear code of life. The code for the child in the family is obedience. Ephesians 6:1: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”
Colossians 3:20: “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Young generations are to be guided in the life through discipline and guidance of the parents. Social media and modernity have posed grave threats to the integrity of the family. Myanmar has seen thousands of youth forced to seek unsafe migration. Even amidst threatening context, children who had moral guidance from the parents survive threats to human dignity in other countries.
As the parents get old they emerge as a fountain of wisdom. The Bible knows the wisdom of the parents. This is the setting for the entire book of Proverbs which begins, “My son, hear the instructions of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” ( Prov.:1:8). The child has a great treasure of good counsel to learn from his parents.
3. Children have the duty of caring for father and mother in their old age.
During the Biblical times there were no home for the aged, where the young couple can dump their parents and forget. The burden of care for aging parents from a Biblical perspective is not the duty of the state but of the children. The Bible entrusted the welfare of old parents in the hands of the children.
St Paul was categorical:
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ( 1 Timothy 5: 8)
4. We are to do this to the degree that providential circumstances will allow.
When children become a parent they realize how much their parents did for them. In the natural process of time, the children are given the opportunity to serve parents even as they served the children.
5. Where there have been failure and breaches, children have the duty of understanding and forgiving father and mother.
There are difficult families where there has never been a reconciliation between the children and parents. Part of personal emotional and spiritual maturity is coming to the realization that parents were not perfect and perhaps did not do all perfectly in upbringing the children. But in ordinary circumstances, the disposition of children toward parents should be one of grace even in their parent's faults. As St Peter exhorts “above all things have fervent charity among yourselves (1 Peter 4:8) children need to extend forgiveness to the past painful events.
As the pandemic is still on the arrogant march, it is the family that is keeping the fight against the virus going. The family has been the unit of humanity that has withstood all challenges to the disintegration of the human family.
May we celebrate the gift of our parents today. As St. Anne and Joachim brought forth our mother Mary, the protector of all against the pandemic, let each family be the holy family and let parents and children stand together at this moment of COVID-19 challenge.