These summer months can be challenging. For all the joy of looser schedules and less pressing responsibilities, we are also faced with endless need, summer “boredom,” and the need to structure long days. These days I work more than I ever imagined I would and with that comes a new set of challenges accompanied by a generous dose of “mom guilt.”
This week, after a particularly long day of work, I vowed to take a half-day the next day and spend some quality time with my children. These children don’t need me in the ways they once did, but they still need me, and I know how quickly the years go, and I don’t want to miss it. We headed out for a simple day of fun—lunch, walking the “fancy mall,” and just generally enjoying one another’s company. We had a wonderful day, and it was capped off by a fun night at the ballpark with the family (what I wanted for my birthday this year), and the words of the psalmist rang in my mind: Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord. Truly, these children are such a gift, and family life brings with it so much joy.
As I look over the Mass readings for this week, I am struck by the juxtaposition of life and death, of joy and sorrow. Elisha begs for a blessing to repay a woman’s kindness, and God’s answer is to give life to her barrenness: This time next year you will be fondling a baby son. Truly, the gift of children is like no other. And yet, as we read on, the Lord reminds us that the call to life is also a call to death. Death has no real sting, of course, as it has been defeated. And yet we are called to die with Christ, and Jesus goes so far as to say, Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Perhaps the hardest part to swallow is when he says: Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Do we love our children more than the one who gave them to us? My initial inner response is, “Of course not.” But then I have to ask myself, what do my actions say? Am I fighting against his will? Am I struggling to surrender? This doesn’t mean we should abandon our children for a religious life, or somehow abandon the busyness of life for a life of quiet contemplation, but it does mean we must surrender our children—their lives, their futures, and our desires for them—to the Lord, even when it hurts, or most especially when it hurts.
This is the cross, dear mother, this is the death—the letting go, the trusting in a good God, the willingness to say we don’t know but he does. This vocation is our path to heaven, and so it follows that our cross is here. But today my heart focuses most on the words of the psalmist because in this death there is great joy, and we know that with it also comes great reward—so, forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord.