The father began by asking his son if he loved God. The son answered in a slight hesitation that he did indeed love God. The father saw this as an opportunity to share with his son all the reasons why we should indeed love our Lord.
“To start with”, said the father, “I want you to think about the person you love the most in this world. What is it that you love about them?” The child answered that he loved his parents because they took care of him and played with him. The father asked him further if these were the only reasons, to which the son responded “there are lot’s of reasons”.
With a little coaxing, the son listed a few other reasons for his love of his parents, “well they buy me things and get me toys.” The father responded, “so they provide all the things you need to be happy. What about the times when you are punished, do you still love us then?” This of course was not a topic ‘high on the list’ of things the boy wanted to talk about, but he begrudgingly responded that even then, he still loved his parents.
The father asked the child if he understood why he was punished sometimes and the boy said that he did and it was because he did something wrong. The father answered the son, “there is a bit more to it than that. We punish you because we love you.” “I don’t get it”, responded the boy. And to this the father answered, “you see, we love you more than anything else in this whole world. We want you to grow up to be strong in spirit and in mind. Just like we go to school to learn – as much as children might not like school – it is important for you so that you can someday take care of yourself. We punish you because we see something that could ultimately harm you.”
“It is not out of anger that we punish you, but it is out of our love for you because we want to teach you and make you stronger”.
Beloved brothers and sisters-in-Christ, our love for God is most similar to our love for our parents. Our parents nurtured us and loved us. So much more is the love of our God, yet His love is without condition and His mercy is without end. Consider for a moment, the times when our children upset us, don’t their tears of remorse and sorrow wash away our anger? So much the more it is with our Lord. Our Lord is slow to anger and quick to forgive.
Pious parents struggle to instill the love of God in their children. They hope and pray that their children will retain their faith into adulthood and that this faith will guide them all the days of their lives. To instill this love of God is THE great responsibility of parents. Parents might force the children to services, to receive the Mysteries, and to pray at home and this is what we think the best plan. One cannot disagree with this as children need structure, repetition, and familiarity to learn. Something is still lacking. The greatest teacher however is the example of the parents. Our children will learn by watching us, not only at Church, but most importantly in the home. If we make our homes and our hearts vessels of the Holy Spirit, filled with warmth, love, patience, and every virtue our children will greatly benefit.