Dear Followers of Jesus,
Today’s gospel, Matthew 16:21-27, demands much of us. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Last week flying back to Colorado Springs from Bill Wack’s ordination as Bishop of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese, there were several infants on the flight struggling in the cramped spaces. As the parents tried their best to comfort the children, I could not help but focus in on the relationship between the parents and the children. Today’s gospel brings this relationship into the open for me.
Most parents put their own lives on hold to care for their children. Love just does that. The father grows beyond his thirty-inch waistline as the well-educated mother learns to speak baby talk. Letting go of much self-care, career plans and sleep is just what a parent does. Love changes everything. I so admire parents.
As I kept my eye on the ways in which the parents were trying to console the crying children, I saw everything from sheer exhaustion to resentment toward the children and giggling-joy when the little ones finally settled down. Parenthood is a bouncing ball of emotions. This is exactly what happens when love changes us and we are called to live for other people.
I am not a parent. I really don’t know anything about being a parent. However, I just want to say to all parents that we need you now more than ever. We need you to witness to the rest of us exactly how to care for one another even when we are not in a good mood. We need you to show the rest of us how to give our lives away and to make it real. We need you to show us what real commitment looks like. We need you because our children, all of them, need to find the consolation, the shoulder, the heart, and the home in which to rest.
The last thing we need today is another child who is not loved. Within our parish boundaries, we have children who are given away, sold for sex, bruised and battered, or who are starving. Really. We need ever-visible models of care, love and hope. We need people who can give their lives away, to lose themselves in love. We need parents who will stick with their kids when they are slobbering, throwing toys and fits on airplanes. We really need people who are going to stick with love and not think that love might come from other places, especially from secrets and addiction. Loving your children is a step toward peace.
Thank you parents for being parents. You make this gospel come alive for me and for so many other people. The crosses you bear of struggling to make a sufficient living, putting food on the table and fully educating your children are all sources of sheer love. Parents, you find you life in love.