My mother always said, “As you age, you become more of who you are. If you’re a complaining young woman, you’ll probably become a crabby old lady. If you’re a young girl who tattletales, you’ll become an old gossip. Or, if you’re a kind young woman, you’ll probably be a sweet old lady.” As the Psalmist wrote, “They shall bear fruit even in old age.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus warns us to pay attention to the heart, which produces good or evil fruit. If young hearts are well-formed, they eventually beat with faith and compassion. A parent's care, through word and deed, often determines whether the child will bear good or bad fruit. If formed with faith, truth, goodness, and beauty, the child’s heart will bloom and bear rich, bountiful fruit. However, if formed by a critical, mean-spirited, envious, or gossipy parent, the child’s heart will likely bear bitter or rotten fruit—unless grace breaks through in a radical conversion to Jesus Christ.
Parents form their children through authentic witness. They train their children in discipleship by bringing them close to the heart of Jesus: folding their little hands in prayer, reading the beautiful stories of Jesus, speaking gently with them of Jesus, and teaching them to care for another person’s heart. Children will embrace Jesus when experiencing unconditional love and hearing tender words. With hearts swelling with God’s love, children will bring goodness to others.
From the first reading of Sirach, we learn it is from the heart that one speaks. As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s merciful presence—when we teach our children to live with a compassionate heart, using their tongues for speaking well of a sibling or protecting the dignity of a classmate. We name grace by using our tongues for encouraging, loving, and forgiving one another in the home. We witness to the truth of our faith by using our tongues for praising God—in all circumstances.
I have a friend, whose sister often teases her: “My prayer is that someday when you’re in the nursing home, you’ll be fat and foul-mouthed.” I won’t comment on the first part, but I highly doubt my friend will ever be foul-mouthed, as I have never heard an unkind, mean-spirited, or vulgar word come from her beautiful heart. I would bet money, my friend will become only more of who she is: kind, giving, encouraging, and loving (assuming she never suffers from dementia, which can radically change a personality). When we form young hearts in love, they will bear good fruit, speaking of the goodness of the Lord all the days of their lives. Now, that’s good news!
How are you forming your child’s heart?
How will you grow closer to the heart of Jesus this Lent?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more about God's grace in everyday life: www.marypedersen.com.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.