By Father Joseph Gill
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and all those women who show a mother’s love! I hope that your family does something special to honor you, expressing their gratitude for the multitude of sacrifices and the depths of love that you have shown to them.
On this Mother’s Day, it’s good to reflect upon our relationship with our parents. God has given us a commandment – honor your father and mother – as a guide. Notice that, unlike the other commandments, this one does not include a “Thou shall not…” – this is a very positive commandment, meant to foster love and mutual respect. Also notice that this is the only commandment with a promise – honor your father and mother, that you may have long life in the land that the Lord God is giving you.
It is so important because, in a sense, parents take the place of God for us! This is why, when we are under 18, honoring our parents means obedience and respect. Young people should obey their parents because they are entrusted with the task of forming their children to become good Catholics, good citizens, virtuous people and saints!
Even after we turn 18, we still must honor them. What does that mean, practically? First, it means to continue to treat them with respect. It means to not speak badly about them, or to argue with them unnecessarily. We ought to pray for our parents, and ask their advice and opinions. We should not abandon them in the trials of old age, and bring them comfort and help when they are weak or lonely. Remember their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. Call them and visit them often. Honor means to take care of their physical needs, as well, whenever possible.
But I think there is another element of honor, which is not as well-known. To honor one’s parents means to live a life that makes them proud. Our parents should be proud to call us their son and daughter because we live a life of integrity, using our gifts and talents to succeed, and keeping our Catholic faith alive. How many parents have had their hearts broken because their sons/daughters have abandoned the Faith? How many parents have prayed and sighed when their children live lives of dissolution instead of virtue and integrity? To truly honor our parents is to bring them honor by the way we live our lives.
Of course, we ought to honor God first, before our parents. I know parents who have discouraged their kids from following the Lord, or been so worldly that they have pressured their kids to embrace material success instead of following God’s call for their life. In such a case, our first responsibility is to follow God’s plan for our life, even over our parents’ wishes.
With that said, sometimes we have challenging parents. Perhaps we don’t get along with them, or maybe they have hurt us deeply. If that is the case, we can always turn to our Heavenly Father to make up for any lacks in our earthly parents, and take Mary as our mother. No parents are perfect, and forgiving our parents is sometimes difficult – but a necessary part of our spiritual life.
Also, too, parents have responsibilities to their children as part of this Fourth Commandment. Parents owe their kids love, food and shelter, clothing, education, support, and ultimately they owe them the gift of passing on the Catholic faith to them. Children do not belong to their parents – parents are stewards of the children who ultimately belong to God. So we have a responsibility to God to love our children as God loves them, and form them to become like Christ!
On this Mother’s Day, we thank all of our parents who have done so much for us in truly showing us the love of God from the moment we were conceived. Thank you, Mom and Dad!