“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Matthew 19:29

Many years ago I read a book by Dr. Wendy Wright titled, Sacred Dwelling in which she explored family spirituality.  She spoke about how the heart of a parent expands with the birth of a child.  Our capacity to love grows.  This is certainly echoed in my own experience. As I gazed upon the face of my first child, I was overcome with the love I felt for my daughter.  I didn’t know it was possible to love another so much.  But, as a relatively new mom, it was what Dr. Wright said next that really hit me.  Welcoming each new child into the family expands our hearts, but saying goodbye to them expands them even more.  

This profound truth comes back to me each Fall.  It is a time of transition for families and there are many goodbyes.  Whether a parent is dropping a little one off for school for the first time, saying goodbye to a recent graduate who is off to basic training or leaving an eager freshman in his college dorm room, the sense of loss is real.  We begin our goodbyes almost as soon as they arrive. One season of life ends and a new one begins.  It is one way that family life teaches us a gospel truth.  This week, Jesus’ apostles lament that they have given up everything to follow him.  He reassures them,  “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”  (Matthew 19:29)  This is one of many examples where Jesus tells us something that seems to be contradictory.  How can we gain something by losing it?  How is it that we must die in order to live?  How is it that by giving we receive? How is it that our letting go of our children expands our capacity to love?  From the outside, the Lord’s ways seem mysterious.

Part of the answer lies in understanding the nature of God’s mercy and love.  Fr. John Riccardo, who will be our speaker at this year’s Summit, shares a beautiful reflection on the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.  In it, he says that water, by its nature flows to the lowest spot.  Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River, which flows into the Dead Sea, the lowest point on planet earth.  This can tell us something about God’s love and mercy — it, too, by its very nature rushes to the one who is most in need.  We find an abundance of God’s love wherever we are weak, wherever we are hurting, wherever we are reminded that we cannot be self-sufficient.  Sometimes our hearts are hard and they need to be broken in order to grow.  If we welcome God into our broken hearts, He expands them.  Our capacity to love grows.  With each good-bye we experience with our children, we have the opportunity to love more.  And the shedding of a few tears as we do, is actually a great gift. It allows the mercy of God to flow into our hearts.

It is an added grace when we do not experience this transition alone.  This past weekend, Fr. Christensen, our pastor, offered a blessing for all the members of our community who will be heading off to college, to the military or to new jobs.  This very concrete expression of the care of the larger community is a great comfort to both parents and young adults.  It is an experience of the fellowship we desire to foster as part of our understanding of Stewardship.  Many pastors and parishes offer those that are leaving this support and also take the extra step to help students connect with a faith community wherever they are going.  This is so important!  Statistics show that 80% of Catholic students stop practicing the faith at some point in college.*  There is a great opportunity here for us to go the extra step in stewardship and generously give time and effort to assisting young people in finding the same kind of support we offer in their new environment.

This year the support and blessing of Fr. Christensen and the Cathedral offered was particularly touching.  Because today, we will travel to Winona, Minnesota and drop our youngest son off to begin his first year at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary.  We will be “empty nesters.”  On Sunday, Fr. Christensen called Josiah over from his spot in the choir and presented him with the Liturgy of the Hours, a gift from our faith family.  And then he prayed a beautiful and heartfelt blessing over him.  We are all deeply grateful for this sign of love and support.  It is another seeming irony of our walk with Jesus that he can fill our hearts with such joy and sadness at the same time.  It is the end of one season of life, but our hope and joy lies in the fact that the season to come holds even greater joys for us. My deepest thanks to our faith family for walking next to us into it!

https://unsplash.com/photos/Sct4qJxA8d0

*http://www.newmanconnection.com/about/mission

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