SCRIPTURE READINGS: Proverbs 1:1-7; Ps 145; Ephesians 1:3-6; Matt 19:13-19

Who are we?  What are we called to be?  What is our real calling in life?  These by far are the most important questions in parenting.  If we are not clear of our identity, origin and destiny in life, we can never help our children to become what they are meant to be or help them to live their lives meaningfully and purposefully.  If we have not seen the light, we will be hopeless in helping others to find it.  Right from the outset, St Paul states clearly our identity, calling and purpose in life.  He wrote, “Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved.”

Our identity and calling in life is to become the adopted sons and daughters of God.  We are called to share in the life of God.  By so doing, to that extent we share in His life and love, we reflect the glory of God.  Accordingly, we are chosen to be holy and spotless so that we could share in his life.   Hence, our task is not simply to give our children a good life on earth.  We are called to give them a far greater gift of biological and earthly life.  We are called to give them the gift of eternal life, a life that is already a foretaste on earth.  Indeed, such was the realization of the rich man in today’s gospel.  He knew that riches and good life on earth alone cannot bring real and lasting happiness.  Not even living a moral life is sufficient! Hence, in his restlessness, he asked the Lord, “Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?”  The fullness of life is ours only when we live the life of God.  Our final destiny is the Kingdom of God.

Indeed, parents must remember that we are caretakers on behalf of God for His children.  In truth, our children do not belong to us but to God alone.  Only God is the shepherd, we are all His sheep.  Because we are the stewards of God, we do not own our children.  Rather, they have been entrusted to us so that we can look after them.  Our task is to form them after the image and likeness of Christ so that they can give glory to the Father.  We are to ensure that they live fruitful lives and contribute to the building of God’s kingdom on earth and be of service to God and humanity.   Hence, when they are older, we need to let them go and form their own families.  They are not ours to possess like our earthly possessions.  They will have their own minds and calling.  Forming our children is therefore not just our responsibility towards them and society but to God who is our Father.

So how do we do it?  By giving them good memories!  This is the theme of our celebration.  The importance of memories is underscored in the responsorial psalm.  “Age to age shall proclaim your works, shall declare your mighty deeds. They will tell of your great glory and splendor, and recount your wonderful works.  They will speak of your awesome deeds, recount your greatness and might. They will recall your abundant goodness, and sing of your just deeds with joy.”   It was the remembrance of what the Lord had done for Israel, especially at the Exodus and the many times, when God sent judges and prophets to liberate them from their enemies.   These events are constantly recalled in the history of Israel for generations to come so that they will always find strength and courage, knowing that God is their saviour.   For us too, it is our memorial of the paschal mystery that gives us the strength and direction as well.  The Mass is also called a memorial for when we celebrate the Mass, we recall and experience once again the saving effects of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for our salvation. So memories are important because they affect the way we respond to future events and give us a sense of confidence, joy, hope and courage in facing the future.  Happy memories make happy people.

If happy memories make happy people, it will also make happy families.  We cannot underscore the importance of forming and leaving behind good and beautiful memories to our children.  If our children have a good store of happy memories in their childhood years, they tend to be happy, positive and liberated.  But if they have a store only of negative, bad, traumatic and fearful memories, their character would be one of fear, low self-esteem and a lack of trust in others.  They tend to be timid, withdrawn on one hand or abusive, aggressive and violent on the other hand.  These are but the defence mechanisms in their lives.

Recognizing this important dimension of memories, we must ask what kind of memories we want to impart.  What are the memories we want to leave behind and be imprinted in their hearts and minds so that they will never forget.

Firstly, we must leave them with memories of unconditional love and unity at home.  Quite often, the happiness of a child is dependent on his or her upbringing.   If a child comes from a family where parents are loving and patient, they will not only feel secure at home, they will also imitate them in love.  What they experience as children, they will pass their experiences to their children when they start their own families.  Indeed, the problem with Same Sex Attraction most of the time has to do with dysfunctional families where a child is deprived of the love of one of the parents.  When that happens, he or she needs to find compensation. Hence, a boy who does not have the love of the father naturally seeks out another man to fulfil the lack of a male influence in his life.  So it is important that parents provide a holistic ambience of love and security for their children.  But if they experience parental love and loving parents, they too will be attracted to marriage and raising a family.

In the final analysis, the real teaching is not by words but by examples.  Faith and love are not taught but caught.   Parents necessarily must set the examples and be role models in love, forgiveness and compassion for each other and then for their children.  More often than not, children learn by watching and observing their parents, less by hearing what they are saying.  Parents, as the primary educators of faith and love, should therefore be conscious of what they say and what they do as their conduct will leave an imprint on their children’s memories.  Good memories make happy children and families.  Negative and hurtful memories bring anger and fear.  

But we cannot provide a loving and strong family unless we are all rooted in God.  For this reason, above all, we must leave them with beautiful memories of their relationship with God. This explains why Jesus reprimanded the disciples for considering the children a nuisance.  He did not want the children to feel that they were unimportant and unwanted.  Hence he said, “Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’. Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.” How many of us have beautiful memories of the younger days when we first received First Holy Communion and Confirmation.  Some of us have wonderful memories of attending Novena or the processions.  We have nice memories of prayers at home or in school.  It is important that we leave them with such memories as in their adult life, when they stray from Church, they will remember these events and recalling them will once again open their channels to receive God’s love.

This life that is given to us is possible and could be lived out only when we “live through love in his presence.”  For this reason, the Lord invites us to bring children to Him.  Only by coming to Christ can we receive “all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ” that the Father wants to give us.   Only in Christ, can we all grow in our sonship and mature as sons and daughters of God.

How do we do this?  Firstly, we must leave them memories of scripture texts and verses. The first reading reminds us of the benefits of reading the scriptures.  “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:  for learning what wisdom and discipline are, for understanding words of deep meaning, for acquiring an enlightened attitude of mind – virtue, justice and fair-dealing; for teaching sound judgement to the ignorant, and knowledge and sense to the young”.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Dt 6:4-8)

Secondly, we need to imprint such memories of God in their lives through constant reminders and practice.  This is what Christian inculturation is all about.  We need to read the bible stories to our children.  At times, the family must come together to share the Word of God together.  By coming together in prayer and sharing the Word, the family will grow to be united in love and trust.  When we keep talking about something, they will eventually remember in their hearts. Not only speaking, but also using signs help our children to remember the scriptures so that in times of anxiety and fear, they can immediately recall the scripture texts to help them in their life, either for inspiration, guidance or correction.

Thirdly, we must provide them with the right principles of living through the teaching of morals and theological doctrines.  The first reading reminds us that “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools spurn wisdom and discipline.”  No greater gift can we give to our children than the gift of faith.  They must be taught reverence for God and the sacred.  They must be taught discernment so that they can make right choices in life.  We need to give them a solid doctrinal and moral formation of values.  This is what the book of proverbs urges us.  We must provide, “sound judgement to the ignorant, and knowledge and sense to the young.”  Without a proper foundation, they will easily be misled by the false values promoted by the world.  They must be taught the commandments which are the guidelines to life and love.  Jesus said “if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

But how can we teach unless parents first form themselves?  The real problem in society is not children but their parents.  Many of them are hurt and wounded.  They come from dysfunctional and broken families themselves.  Because they are not healed and have not come to experience the love of God, they cannot give what they do not have.  Hence, the book of proverbs tells us that the people who need instructions first and foremost are the parents. “Let the wise listen and he will learn yet more, and the man of discernment will acquire the art of guidance. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools spurn wisdom and discipline.”   Only when parents are well formed, can they form others.

For this reason, the facilities of this Morning Star, the symbol of dawn, of new life, and of hope for every child and every family, are meant to help parents to be better parents.  Most of all, they seek to provide a secure, loving, and happy environment for our children.  Building and strengthening our family relationships is critical for the future of our nation. Parents must make time to hone their knowledge and skills in raising up their children by making use of the social, emotional and spiritual support this Center gives.  Beyond the services of Morning Star, parents should come together often to meet and share the Word of God and their challenges in their marriage and family life so that they can find constant support and inspiration to deal with the difficulties.  Creating support for families is crucial to strengthening family life, whether through the institution or informal gathering.  In this way, the well-being of families is taken care of and each individual within the family is able to grow and realize his or her potentials and later contribute to society.

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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