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Cardinal Bo’s Homily for July 26: Parents’ Day

The Feast of Sts Anne and Joachim, Parents of Mary

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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 the Parents’ day.  The feast of St Anne and Joachim, the parents of our dear mother Mary.  To all the parents listening to us, warm greetings and 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.   We are inspired by the example of  Jesus our Lord, who even from the Cross took care of his mother Mary and entrusted her care to his favorite disciple.  Jesus showed his love for his mother until the end. This Sunday is a Sunday of gratefulness celebrating the unconditional love of our parents as Jesus did.

Not all parents enjoy a good life.  We are also come here to kneel on our knees to pray for affected parents’ sickness and abandonment by their own children.  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. Grateful because they collaborated with God in creating us. They are in a vantage position of only after God.

 Christianity approaches  God in family terms.  Christian  God is not the monotheistic man, demanding total slavish obedience.   Christianity is a loving family with the Trinity as the all inspiring family of love and harmony.

Today as we celebrate the head of every family, our parents, we need to take Trinity as an example of a loving family. The relationship between the father and son is exemplified in Trinty.  Our heavenly Father sets the example by publicly honoring His Son more than once (Matthew 3:1717:5). Jesus preaches a heartwarming passage of the closeness He has with His Father (John 5:18-30) and the mutual respect and honor that is present in their relationship. Our heavenly Father honors His Son and expects us to honor Him also (John 5:23).

Today’s reading leads us to contemplate our family as a reflection of Trinitarian love.  The first reading tells us how wisdom and ability to discern the 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 need 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

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).

 His motherly love is poignantly expressed  in Isaiah:  chapter 49

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.

Thus  God raises his love to the love of the mother.   Today we are grateful to the gift of life through our simple mothers.

Our parents may not have chosen us, but  God chose them to 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 inthe Ten Commandments, (Exodus 20:2-17 and Deut. 5:6-21). the fifth commandment urges us “  Honor  Your Father and Mother”,

On this day let us see how  God’s word sees the role of parents and children.

                     a. 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, God so loved the world that he gave his only son, not to condemn but to redeem the world. (John 3:16).  Everyday every tongue proclaims our God as our Father in heaven.

Our heavenly Father, the Christian God is all love. God’s first creation was not a monastery or a monk or a nun.  His first creation was the family, the first parents.  Family is the opening of our long journey as a species of love.

And we have come to celebrate that primordial love of God.   That is the love parents convey to their children.  This is the first task of every parent: be the witness of God’s love to one another and to the children.

        2. Parents are the evangelizers of children

The life of the parents is the first Bible 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 the 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.  Love combined with nurturing discipline is the great gift parents can give to their children.  

b. Five Duties of Children to Parents:

  1. Children have the duty of honoring and respecting father and mother.

Children are to show honor to their parents through a respectful attitude toward their parents. Honoring the parents is done through the appreciation of their efforts in bringing up the children with great difficulties, their sacrifices, and their unselfish decision to have children.  According to St Paul,  those who do honor to their parents have a special promise.   Among 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 

  1. 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.”  The young generation is to be guided in life through discipline and guidance of the parents.   Social media and modernity have posed a grave threat 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.

  1. Children have the duty of listening to the counsel of father and mother.

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.   Those who refuse to listen to the elderly parents do it at their own peril.  Modern days there are three approaches to parents:  when we are children, we think our parents know everything when we become adults, we think they do not know anything, and when WE get old, we realize our parents were ALWAYS  right.  Regret follows when we knew we missed their sage counsel.

  1. Children have the duty of caring for father and mother in their old age.

During  Bible times there was 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 the children.   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).

 When children become a parent they realize how much their parents did for them.  In the natural process of time, the children are allowed to serve parents even as they served the children.

  1. Where there have been failures and breaches, children have the duty of understanding and forgiving father and mother.

There are difficult families.  There has never been a reconciliation between the children and parents. Part of personal emotional and spiritual maturity is realizing 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 on.   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  challenge.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB, is Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, and President Federation of the Asian Bishops Conference.

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Cardinal Charles Bo

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