The Mission Field of Parenting
The nurse gently handed the young couple the gift of their brand new baby. Expressions of joy, awe, wonder seized their hearts—and then panic. With their precious, screaming newborn buckled safely into the car seat, they set out on the mission field called parenting—carrying no experience, no roadmap, and only a few words of advice to help maneuver the next eighteen-plus years.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus sends forth seventy-two disciples to ensure the handing on of mission. In some ways, this initial sending out mirrors parenting. The seventy-two were “sent out in pairs;” parenting requires support, whether a spouse, a wise grandparent, a faithful friend, or the Church community. The seventy-two were “lambs among wolves;” parenting cultivates trust in God while raising children in an increasingly secular culture. The seventy-two were to “greet no one along the way;” parenting demands focus to stay on mission while battling overbooked calendars, stressful jobs, and endless entertainment.
From the moment of birth, the Christian parent’s goal—end game—is to form the child into a laborer for Christ. The harvest certainly is abundant. There are so many who are searching for light and love, and each child born into the world ultimately finds his or her purpose in bringing Christ to others.
When Jesus sent out these seventy-two, he must have had similar hopes and questions as parents who send their children into the world: Did I give them enough? Do they know their mission? Will the first grade daughter stop to pick up the classmate’s dropped pencil box? Will the junior high son defend the classmate who is bullied? Will the high school daughter join the service club? Will the teenage son stand up for his faith in Jesus when his friends falter?
This fall many parents will nervously drop off their beloved sons and daughters at college. Some aspects of college campuses resemble a lion’s den, ready to devour their children. Will they keep the faith? Will they reach out to others with the light of Christ? We don’t know, but if we have loved them, formed them, and prayed with them, we can hope that even when they fall, eventually they will rise and labor again for Christ.
We name grace in the domestic church when we strengthen our children for mission by nursing them with mother’s milk: the Eucharist and the Word of God. We name grace by putting faith before all else—including money, work, and hobbies. We name grace when they witness us laboring in the field by serving the poor and sharing our faith.
Though I know young Christian men and women who have courageously set out to foreign lands, no mission field has greater importance than Christian parenting. As St. John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “the future of humanity passes by way of the family.” Parenting is difficult, but when seen as mission there is great purpose. The seventy-two returned rejoicing, just as parents will experience the joy of handing on faith in Jesus Christ to the next generation, and the next, and the … “Now, that’s good news!
How can you stay focused on mission? How can you help support a young parent—perhaps a single mother or father—in their mission?
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.