Let’s thank our parents as they work all day and continue to serve their children after work
After discussing today’s readings with a married man, the Gospel began to make more sense. Because, after reading once, it’s easy to think God is too tough. But, when you are a parent, you realise it’s true: the parents are the servants and the children are the masters!
We think of parents as they get up early to prepare the children, then go off to work all day, returning, not to rest, but to care for the children once more: bath, supper & study. When all is done, mum and dad then take time to eat and drink.
It seems a hard life. But, as we enjoin the Gospel with the First Reading, we realise that the secret to long lasting happiness is our patience while we are servants to others.
Perhaps this explains why so many young adults in the developed world are unhappy and suffer depression: they search for happiness by themselves through their career and material things.
But, how does this work for the youth? Expectations are high. The media tell the youth what they should have in order to be happy. Our school system encourages our children to be whatever they want to be. In reality, however, it is not so.
The youth should look to the example of our parents. Happiness comes in small amounts day by day, along with a lot of sweat and, sometimes, tears. But, from time to time, the joy is very deep and healing: the first words, the first walk, words of appreciation and love from the child, moments of graduation, success in work, etc.
As one parent said: happiness/ joy is a marathon, not a sprint. And this idea can help our youth develop more understanding and an attitude that is ready for some hardships before experiencing long-lasting happiness.
In Kionyo Parish, a school graduate asked me: “Father, can you give me some advice how to get a job?” I replied, “look for a tradesperson, and offer to help him for 3 months, free of charge, in exchange for learning. Hopefully they’ll give you lunch! With some experience, you can look for work and people will let you be an assistant.” The youth looked sad, saying: “but I need money to ring my girlfriend.” I smiled and said, “to get ahead, sacrifices are necessary.”
The reality in life is that we all need to be patient, make progress slowly at the beginning. But, if we are hard-working and disciplined, it speeds up as we grow older. There will always be periods of struggle, loss and “going backwards”. However, the readings remind us, during the difficult unrewarding times, that we can remain hopeful and positive: the best is yet to come!
We see this in Paul’s message to Timothy. Timothy experienced a bit of rejection when he started replacing St Paul. However, his patience and perseverance brought about a positive change. Let us, also, take heart from this instruction and example of Timothy.
Although I’ve shared this before, it is a great analogy for us to understand life and how to reach our future happiness: the birth of a butterfly. A little boy watched a butterfly emerge slowly from its cocoon. The slow process of transformation was fascinating, but, at a point, the boy grew impatient. He grabbed a pair of scissors and cut some of the cocoon to speed up things. It worked. The butterfly emerged more quickly, but, because the process had been unnaturally rushed, it was born with wings that were not properly formed and was unable to fly.
The natural process of struggle during transformation to a butterfly has a purpose: it forces blood out to the ends of the butterfly wings. Because the boy cut short the struggle, the wings did not function properly and it died after a short time because it could not fly and find food.
The struggles in married life are likewise important to help develop the full character of the parents and the children. As my Uncle Frank says, “family life is character building for both the parents and the children.”
The older generations in all cultures have a key responsibility to help guide our children and youth to the right struggles, and help them avoid the wrong struggles. We should worry for our youth who have a lot of energy and yet, many times, are stopped or slowed down by a lack of means: no mentor, no encouragement, mistreatment by employers, lack of jobs, etc.
At the same time, our youth need to seek healing and develop their talents.
* Healing for past abuse so that we do not hurt others as we grow older.
* Develop their talents, so they can contribute to society with pride because of hard-work.
Finally, youth to youth healing is possible: young people can give the love and encouragement they were denied. The more they encourage others, the more they find healing for themselves.
Whether young or old, can we reflect this week on whether we give sufficient mentorship to others: words of encouragement, praise and empowerment; lobbying the Government for the structural needs necessary to create jobs and facilitate healing for past injustices?
By Gerard Conlan, OMI