17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Why did gramma put wheels on her rocking chair? She wanted to rock and roll!
Why does Grampa smile all the time? Because he can’t hear a word you’re saying!
Yes, there are definite blessings to being grandparents! First and foremost among them is the ability to be able to live long enough to see your children’s children be born, flourish, and thrive! To help them in life, grandparents are in a unique position. They can draw upon the wisdom and life lessons they’ve learned over the years, in order to help their grandchildren avoid making the same mistakes or obstacles they themselves had to endure. And unlike parents who may have to correct undesirable behavior in their children from time to time, grandparents are in the unique position of being able to be just pure grace, and can thereby, better reflect the unconditional love, acceptance and generosity of our God. Grandparents can also be a sounding board, to their own children when faced with child-rearing challenges or questions on how to approach a particular issue. Another great blessing grandparents can offer to their grandchildren is the ability to live a slower, more reflective life apart from much of the technology and screens which can, if left unchecked, get in the way of building authentic, life-sustaining relationships.
(Speak about the blessings of learning how to garden from your grandparents and grandmother’s creative ability to make and sell beautifully crocheted linens in her spare time, her ability to make a great Sunday lunch with only the ingredients in her back yard, her love of learning even though she had to quit school in the fourth grade, her faith in Jesus, presepio building, and how to pray. Grandfather bringing over a whole bunch of toys from their employee appreciation day.) In these and many other ways, my grandparents truly lived their vocation faithfully!
Just as grandparents are blessings to their grandchildren, the reverse is also true! Grandchildren often bring a renewed hope for a better world, an optimistic view that their dreams can come true, and a sense of wonder and awe in things newly discovered in nature or in school to their grandparents. Grandchildren also bring companionship to them in their old age, help them to reflect on their past history and culture, and give them a sense of pride in their grandchildren’s accomplishments. In the era of technology, grandchildren are often the teachers to their grandparents on how to use the computer, to get online, and to access Fr. Sam’s livestreamed mass on Sundays at Holy Redeemer! Though not raised with the same understanding of church as they were, grandchildren openly express what they like and dislike about the church and aren’t afraid to challenge attitudes, positions, or teachings that are perceived as “unchristian.” In this way, they get their grandparents to examine their own Christian beliefs more fully and grow in their own faith. In these and many other ways, we can gain an understanding and greater appreciation for the gift of grandparents and grandchildren to one another and the ways their particular vocations complement and strengthen one another.
Indeed, St. Paul encourages us all, in today’s second reading, with the following words,
“I, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Eph 4:1) The trick is knowing what our calling is and then embracing it with a full and unreserved heart, mind, and soul. It’s important to remember too, that our callings can change over time, as we age. So, the vocation of parent often becomes the vocation of grandparent and more often these days, even that of great-grandparent!
One of the questions many of the grandchildren here can ask their grandparents sometime today is what they remember about their own grandparents and what blessings their grandparents showered upon them. Today is also a good day for the grandchildren to share with their grandparents what they most love about our church and about their family legacy.
One of the common threads that we share intergenerationally is the thread of our faith in Jesus Christ! Indeed, it’s that faith in Christ that our parents promised to share with us when we were baptized. Oftentimes today, grandparents also play an increasingly vital and sustaining role in transmitting and sustaining the faith of their grandchildren, as parents become preoccupied with other life issues that sometimes, unexpectedly arise and can derail a shared faith life. Grandparents are, by and large, happy to fulfill this role, because they’ve often experienced for themselves, the power of faith, to get us through the difficulties and hardships of life. And when grandchildren start to question or to doubt their faith, grandparents are there to demonstrate the love, compassion, and mercy of Christ who meets everyone where they are at and journeys with them at whatever pace they can handle to find the answers they long for.
St. Paul demonstrates the power of such faith in times of difficulty. Born a Jew and taught to be an exemplary Pharisee, Paul thought he had all the answers. —that is, until one day, on the road to Damascus, Paul hears the call one day, of none other, than Jesus himself —a calling that would challenge the trajectory of Pauls’ whole life! It was because of this conversion event that Paul dedicates himself to being a missionary disciple, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near! Paul’s calling wasn’t an easy one, though, because he had formerly been known as a persecutor of the Christian Church. But with his newfound faith in Jesus Christ, Paul was able to endure and withstand the harsh realities of being a disciple of Jesus.
We see that, once he’s freed from prison, Paul realizes that he has no time to lose! —and so, he finds within himself, a passion and a drive that some of the other apostles, who had lived among Jesus in his own lifetime, didn’t even have! With passionate zeal and undaunted boldness, Paul goes from town-to-town, adapting the Good News of Jesus to its hearers, utilizing his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and the cultural identities of the people to whom he was preaching, to lead his hearers to faith in Christ.
While building up the church in this way, Paul relies on the church elders in Jerusalem, appoints leaders to the local communities he establishes, and teaches them the basics of the Gospel message to transmit to the next generation. Paul isn’t concerned about his life or about the dangers that proclaiming Christ will bring him, because he’s had that deep down conversion experience which sustains him and gives him the courage to withstand the sufferings, trials and tribulations which will inevitably come his way.
Paul’s boldness of conviction is evidence that he truly embraced his calling. And though he discovered his calling later in life and didn’t have the benefit of grandparents to rely on, once Paul accepted that his calling was from God, there was no holding him back! There was no one and no thing that could keep Paul doing what God wanted him to do because deep down, Paul knew his life was not his own, but that it was a gift from God to be used to bring God greater honor, glory and praise.
Like Paul, each of us is charged with living out our callings, without holding anything back. Whether that call is to be a mother, a wife, a father, a husband, a grandparent, a grandchild, and elder, a single person, a consecrated religious, a priest —- or whatever we may happen to be, all of us are invited to embrace our callings fully and to be faithful to them, day in and day out.
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