242. Do Not Be Empty-handed Parents

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Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NRSV]

Growing in Wisdom, by Simon Dewey

Believing Parents are first catechists and first witnesses of faith. They pass on the baton of faith, mindful of St Paul’s words “I delivered to you what I myself have received” [1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3]. Dedicated parents raise their sons and daughters to be faith-filled Christians.

Actively practising Christians understand that the kind of children they will have depends on what they feed themselves and their children. If they feed themselves well one hour a week by attending the Sunday service, that certainly counts for something. But in the complicated world of today, would they not have to be mindful whether for the rest of the week they and their children are not feeding on junks? The kind of domestic churches our families will become depends on what we consciously and proactively feed ourselves, our spouses and our children.

What parents need to be vigilant of is that they are not reduced to being empty-handed parents. They have a model to peel their vision on, that of Saint Joseph in the Gospels.

Joseph was no empty-handed parent, but did good by Jesus on three counts. Saint Luke says Jesus lived and grew up under Joseph’s authority, and “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favour” [Luke 2:52, NRSV]. In fact, Jesus was sufficiently learned by the age of twelve that he could even engage the doctors of the Law [Luke 2:41-50].

There is a deeper cultural poverty amongst the majority of Christian faithful than meets the eye. A survey on twelve year old children in England showed that the only thing they knew about Easter was Easter egg. If we discount all surveys in Britain on account of her post-Christian reality, would a survey on adult church-going American men hit the mark? A survey of this latter group revealed the hilarious, if shocking, fact that the majority of them thought St. Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah of the Ark. But if there’s a severe poverty in former Christian nations in connecting with Christian symbols, there is no problem at all in their comprehension of secular symbols like Apple, Nike or Starbucks.

The question really turns on how seriously we practise our faith and live our baptism. Are we so lukewarm in faith-practice that we are in reality vaccinating our children against faith? Three real life stories may shed good light here.

  • A Catholic father was heard asking his young children, “Tired? Ok we do not have to go to church today. We go next Sunday.”
  • Another Catholic dad said to his youngest daughter that he was not going to church that Sunday. The girl went to her mother, announcing to her that she too was not going to church because dad was not going. Whereupon, the mother said to the little girl, “Daddy is going to hell, do you want to go to hell too?”
  • A ten-year-old boy was pulled to one side by his dad who tried to bribe him, “Say, boy, you don’t really want to go to church, do you? Come play basketball with me, and afterwards, we go and eat kolo-mee and ice cream. How about that?” Lo and behold, without a second thought, the young boy shot straight back at his dad: “Sorry, dad, I must go to church. Mommy says we have to pray for you.”

Copyright © Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh, February 2020 All rights reserved.

You are most welcome to respond to this post. Email your comments to jeffangiegoh@gmail.com. You can also be dialogue partners in this Ephphatha Coffee-Corner Ministry by sending us questions for discussion.

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