In the Gospel of John (6:51-58), Our Lord embarks upon what theologians refer to as The Bread of Life Discourse. Here, Jesus stands within the crowd and begins to teach. Having been sent by the Father, Jesus is caring for the Children of God! By doing so, He must have felt like every parent does when they seek to impart important truths upon their children: “I hope you’re listening, because what I’m about to tell you about is the mystery of love—God’s love.”
What does Jesus say? “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” To recall the words of St. Paul: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Afterward, many accepted His teaching; however, others did not.
As parents, do we see parallels? If not, perhaps we should.
First, parenting is tough. We wonder whether our witness and love make a difference. For parenting may be likened to constructing a building that in our earthly life, we’ll never see completed. And so, we trust and pray and pray and pray.
Second, perhaps God feels the same way about each of us. For we’ve been told that: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) Each day, His Spirit surrounds and invites us to deeper relationship with Him. And each day, through the ministry of our beloved priests, on altars throughout the world, He presents Himself to us so that we might consume Him and have eternal life. When we receive Him, He must experience the greatest joy! But when we stay away, God is like the good Father in the Story of the Prodigal Son. With a knot in his stomach, He waits patiently for our return. And only then, does He rejoice!
A wise man once said: “I think when you become a parent you go from being a star in the movie of your own life to the supporting player in the movie of someone else’s.” (Craig Ferguson, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot) As supporting players, we moms and dads want the best for our children and seek to pour out our love and wisdom upon them. And so, we worry. We want them to take our advice. We want them to learn from our mistakes. In the blur of it all, we also remember the grief we put our own dear parents through.
Years ago, when I was about to become a father for the first time, I remember how in the months leading up to my now oldest daughter’s birth, I confided to a priest friend my uncertainty over whether I would be a good father. During our conversations, he assured me that I would and told me that I had plenty of “wisdom” to impart. To this day, I can still remember his words: “And if she’s smart, hopefully she’ll listen to a fraction of it.” And then there were these golden words: “When she does— rejoice! And when she doesn’t, remember that you’re in the company of Jesus.”