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November 10, 2019: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Associate Pastor’s Corner

November is the month in which we contemplate the Four Last Things: heaven, hell, judgement, and death.  The end of our contemplation culminates on Sunday, November 24th, when we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  In a special way, this month we contemplate the end time, reminding ourselves that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of all things.  

And as such, this weekend, we encounter a truly horrific story.  In its full form, the story of the Mother and her Seven Sons from Maccabees is straight from a horror movie.  But in the horror of watching her sons die one by one, in today’s first reading, we see the glory of parenthood, the glory, more specifically, of motherhood.  

In this reading, we witness the last testimony of each one of these sons, each one, more defiant than the last, to keep to the traditions of their forefathers.  One spews a spirit of hope that our Father will redeem him.  Another son invites the torturer to cut off his tongue.  Another says that he will disdain his own body if it means that he will be justified by God.  Not in today’s reading, but in the long form, the youngest son says to his executioners, “What are you waiting for?  ...Like my brothers, I offer up my body and my life for our ancestral law, imploring God to show mercy soon to our nation.”  The author of Maccabees goes to great lengths to demonstrate the heroism of the sons.  Yet, it would not be so if it weren’t for the mother’s faith.  

These seven sons--their faith didn’t come out of nowhere.  Their parents didn’t say, “I’m going to let them choose their religion.”  No, in reality, these sons trained their entire lives to be sons of the Living God. We remember what St Paul says to fathers in Ephesians 6--”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.” The reason why these seven young men were ready to give their lives to God was because they had been training to do so since birth. 

About two weeks ago, I was visiting my godson and his family. Speaking to his father, he said, “We’re not in the business of making our children comfortable--we’re in the business of training saints.”  My godson and his siblings live comfortably in their home, the bills are paid, there is always a warm meal for them, and their beds are clean. Yet what I admire about this family, and indeed, the family from Maccabees, is that these parents have an ardent desire to train saints.  It’s not about getting the best deals on Black Friday. It’s not about the latest tech that we’ll see during the next two months. Fatherhood, Motherhood--it’s about training saints.  

Must we make sure that our children are fed, their clothes and their bodies clean?  That they are learning manners and doing their homework?  Yes, of course.  But the work of the vocation of parenthood needs to involve deepening our children’s sanctity, their friendship with Jesus, Mary, and the Saints.  And the preaching and faith formation St Dominic’s offers so regularly must be passed down and integrated into the life of the family.  

So how do we do this?  How do we introduce Jesus and Mary more closely into our family life?  A few suggestions:

  • Before our family meal(s), say grace.  And as we are saying grace, bring up other things to pray for, family members, friends, situations around our world.  
  • Have regular family time--as Jesus was ever-present to the disciples, parents too must be to their children.
  • Have a prayer corner in the house, where images of the family’s patron saints reside.
  • Have images of your patron saints in your children’s rooms, and quiz your children on what they know about their patrons.  Make this relationship authentic. 
  • Tell your children why it’s important to attend Mass (every) Sunday and Holy Days
  • Go to confession as a family—and go to get dessert afterwards.  
  • Serve the poor as a family--demonstrating what it looks like to be a Christian in today’s world. 

The work of vocation is to train saints--not only yourself, but  those around you.  During November, as we contemplate the Four Last Things, we contemplate how we, and how those surrounding us, are becoming the saints we are called to be.

~ Fr. Isaiah Mary


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