A father tells his two sons to do their chores. The first refuses, but later does what his father asked him to do. This son had a change of heart, and the change was to be obedient to his father.
The second son replies, “Yes, sir”, but then does not do what his father asked him. This son was rebellious. His answer to his father was just to look good.
This happens all the time in some parishes. We prepare the children to be disciples of Jesus Christ, their First Communion, their First Confession and Confirmation. They all say, “Yes”. Then they disappear. But it is not the children who disappear. It is their parents who do not believe that attendance at Mass is important, even though God, the Father, has told us in his commandment to keep holy the Sabbath, Sunday, and to worship Him on Sunday.
In Jesus’ parable, the first son experienced something like a conversion. The first son was rebellious at first, but then had a change of heart. We are called to get over our rebelliousness and to return to the Father.
In the first reading we heard, the conversation between Ezekiel and the Lord,
“The Lord’s way is not fair”, says man.
Then, God replies, “Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?”
This is often the heart of the matter, between us and God.
This is how we know when we must go to Confession and change our heart and our ways, when we realize that our ways were not fair.
Jesus told his disciples to
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
It is our task to form disciples, beginning with our children.
We are thankful for the gift God has given us in our children. We now have around 1,350 parish children in our Religious Education program, the 5th largest Religious Education program in the Diocese. Again, we are happy, but at the same time, more than a little anxious about the responsibility that God has given us to support you, the parents in the Christian faith formation of your children.
We are very aware that we are not the primary teachers of the faith for your children. Parents are the First Catechists of their Children, always.
Parents have the responsibility for the formation of their children’s spiritual and personal values, their morals, their education and their faith in Jesus Christ. We prepare them for eternal life. We teach you and your children God’s ways and God’s commands.
Words cannot express the pain I feel when children come for their first Confession and I give them as their penance, for example, to pray the “Our Father”, and they reply they don’t know the “Our Father”. They don’t know how to pray at all.
Parents! Are God’s ways unfair? He wants your children to know him, worship and pray to him. It is your job to teach your children to pray, and to pray the basic prayers of our faith, like the “Our Father”, like Jesus taught us. Pray with your children!
Or as another example, when I ask the children if they have missed Mass, and they respond, “Father, what is that? What is Mass?” It happens, all too often. I ask them if they come to Church every week and they say, “Yes.” They tell me they never miss their class. However, they don’t go to Mass. They don’t know the Mass responses. They don’t know the Mass.
Parents! When this happens, we are failing! We are not forming Disciples of Jesus Christ! This is wrong! And, it is wrong for you to think that the priests and the deacons and the catechists are going to form the faith of your children in classes. That is impossible! Only you can teach them their faith! We give them knowledge of the faith that you share with them. We must work together in the formation of your children. Parents form their children’s hearts and minds. Children will almost always love what their parents love, and detest what their parents detest.
Children must learn to practice their faith by coming to Mass, and learn the importance of the Mass. They will not learn their faith in classes only. In the Holy Mass they will encounter Christ in his Word and in his Body and Blood. When we attend Mass we are reuniting with Christ, every week! We are following the Third Commandment to keep Holy the Lord’s Day, Sunday, by worshiping Him.
If you do not bring your children to Mass, we are failing by teaching them a cynical, dangerous lie, that we are not teaching the Truth. You are teaching them by your actions that you don’t believe the Mass is important. You are setting up all of us to teach lies, and the kids know it. If you don’t believe the Mass, they won’t believe it, either.
We had no idea how big the problem was until this month. Since the summer we have grown by about one thousand people at weekend Masses in just the past three weeks. We had around 2,100 at Mass during the Summer weeks. Now we have close to 3,100 at Mass every weekend.
We took the decision to require that the children obtain signatures that they have attended Mass. They each have to get their attendance papers signed in Mass as proof that they have attended Mass every Sunday. This is not a punishment or a penance. This is part of their formation, to help you teach them the importance of coming to Mass, and following God’s Commandments. This is how we are helping you to form disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you believe this to be unfair, then who is being unfair? God, or you? Parents, we share with you the responsibility for the faith formation of your children. Pray for them. Help them to become disciples by becoming disciples yourselves.
Do you want to live in the Kingdom of God? There are three things we have to do:
1) Don’t miss Mass – Keep Holy the Sabbath;
2) Receive Holy Communion as often as possible; and
3) Go to Confession regularly.
These are God’s ways. God gave us the commandment to keep holy the day of the Lord, every week. Jesus gave us the Mass and His Body and Blood. And Jesus gave the Church the power and authority to forgive sins. Practice your faith. Teach your faith to your children. Help form them as disciples. This is who we are as parishioners and disciples of Jesus Christ. This is our faith. If you have a problem with this, then we pray that you will “change your minds” and your hearts. We pray you will not be rebellious to God, and that you will show your children how to be faithful to God and to do His Will. That is what we do to help them to get to Heaven.