Here are two questions:
- “What do you fill yourself with?”
- “Why is this important?”
Because when you are ‘squeezed,’ that is what is going to come out of you.” The young son in today’s parable seems confused. But is he really? Is he not acting normally? Is he perhaps simply reflecting the sentiments of the generation of his youth?
When reflecting on today’s Gospel reading, few people reflect on the childhood of the father. The kind of kindness, understanding, wisdom and mercy he showed to both of his sons isn’t something that we’re normally born with or comes naturally. Somewhere in his life, that kind of virtue was exhibited to the father first, probably at a significant, critical and difficult time in his own life. Thus he was able to pass on what he not only learned, but also most likely personally experienced as a youth, to his own sons.
So what would that look like in a contemporary setting? What are four keys on which dads (and moms and grandparents) should focus today in dealing with their children?
Jason Everet is an author and speaker. He has spoken on six continents to more than one million people about the virtue of chastity. He is a frequent guest on radio programs throughout the country, and his appearances include Fox News, MSNBC, the BBC, and EWTN. Together with wife Crystalina, they have authored over ten books. After working for Catholic Answers in San Diego for more than a decade, the couple moved to Denver and began a new ministry, The Chastity Project, which focuses on healthy, human sexuality and chastity for people of all ages.
Jason recently reflected on today’s Gospel reading during a recent men’s Gospel reflection. He offered four keys of they way that parents can relate to their children.
As a parent, you can’t give what you don’t have. So the first key is to focus on an Interior Prayer Life. For example, Pope John Paul II related how impressed he was with his dad’s prayer life. What was especially noteworthy was that the prayer life of the father of the future pontiff seemed to intensify AFTER his wife died. The dad had no wife to help raise his young children. So he seemed to naturally understand the need to “double down” on the spiritual time spent with the Lord.
Confession once a month – as a family – is also another way a dad can show example of a strong spiritual foundation.
The second key is affirming kids both emotionally and physically.
There are constant examples of young people committing suicide while their Facebook pages are full of smiling pictures and happy stories. Parents wonder about this phenomenon. It’s a coping mechanism. Emotionally, kids are typically posting themselves “at their best” while they’re feeling “at their worst.”
Especially girls need that affirmation from that booming male voice. One woman tells the story of her dad who constantly and annoyingly told her how beautiful she was when she was a clumsy, “ugly duckling” teenager. It used to drive her crazy. She once yelled at him, “When will you stop telling me that I’m beautiful?” Her dad’s response: “When you start believing it. And then, when you do, I will continue affirming it.” The German priest and theologians Dietrich Von Hildibrand once said that girls need to be affirmed by what they are and who they are.” If not, women will get love from “compensation.”
Hildebrandt said that Boys are different. They don’t want you to see who they are. They want you to see what they do.
Physical touch is hugely important especially today and most especially for boys. Society today is totally confusing boys with mixed message about what is – and is not – healthy touch. Give them an example. Let them know about boundaries. Show them signs of affection. Roughhouse with the boys. It’s the way dads and sons bond.
The third key – Talk to them about “that stuff” (aka, sex).
One girl told the story of being on a date with a guy who was aiming for a physical encounter. She handed him her cell phone, pull up her dad’s number and said, “Here’s my dad. Ask him what you’re proposing. If he’s OK with it, then we’re good to go.” She mentions that the guy never asked her out on another date again.
Another girl conspired with her friend to get tickets from her sister to attend a Notre Dame football game. Dad thought, “What am I going to talk about with two pre-teen girls for 7 hours out and seven hours back.” So he hatched a plot. He invited his best friend and, on the way there, they both told the stories on how they met, dated, courted, proposed and married the girls’ respective mothers. A clandestine, 7 hours chastity talk. The dating and courting was especially fascinating to the girls because nobody teaches kids how to date these days. The dads said that in dating, there are only two pathways: marriage or breakup. Years later the girl told her dad how important that talk was especially once she got to college. She related how few of her roommates and other young women simply didn’t know how to “date with boundaries.” They only knew “friends with benefits.”
Also, don’t let the “hypocrite accusation” freeze you. Authority doesn’t come from your perfection – it comes from your parenthood.
Fourth key: Live chastity if you want them to like chastity.
They won’t live chastity outside of marriage if you don’t live chastity inside of marriage. Show them what married romance looks like. They’ll complain. They’ll say “That’s yucky” to your face. They’ll say “Please don’t embarrass me like that in front of my friends.” Their friends will say, away from you of course, “I wish my folks would do that.”
One dad told the story of coming home and seeing his 3 year old boy licking a flyswatter. When he tried to take it away, the boy screamed. So dad went to the freezer and got a Popsicle and offered the boy a choice. Guess which one he chose? Let them see something better than what the world is offering them. One mom (who was married to a dad who kissed his wife all of the time) once told her boys, “I hope you find a girl who loves you as much as I love your dad.”
Living a chaste lifestyle is more than about birds and bees. A TV in the kids room will lead the boy or girl to watch 400 extra hours of TV each year. And they won’t be watching Barney or National Geographic. A 6 year old boy will see more hours of TV than the number of hours spent talking with his father. We need “screen fasts.” We need to practice, and teach our children, “technology chastity.”
In the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, we read about, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The son was pursuing happiness. However, in today’s Gospel parable, the younger son went to pursue that happiness in a “foreign country, a distant land.” Too many of us adults, young adults, teenagers and kids are pursuing happiness in a “foreign country, a distant land.” Pleasure is never free. You always pay for pleasure. If the pleasure is NOT of God, you pay for it afterwards. If the pleasure IS of God, you pay for it up front and that sometimes means forgoing pleasure and waiting.
Some young people will complain: “But that’s too hard! I can’t wait that long. I’ll never get married. I’ll never had a boyfriend / girlfriend!” The Lord is never late – but He’s never early either. He is always on time. In a world of conflicting messages and confusion, don’t be afraid to wait for the Lord. It’s worth the wait.
Audio version of the homily is here: