It happens from time to time at Mass that a small child will be having a rough day and will be a bit noisy. And on occasion, I’ve actually had people come up to me after Mass and say, “Father, you should really talk to those parents about their child.” I’ve never done it, but allow me to publically take this opportunity. To all parents, if your child is being noisy, or rambunctious, or distracting during Mass, let me take this opportunity to say: Thank you. Thank you for bringing your child to Mass. Thank you for taking seriously your responsibility to hand on the faith, even when it is difficult. It would be so easy for you to stay home, to decide that your child is too young, and you will bring them when they’re older, to excuse yourself by saying that they aren’t going to get anything out of Mass and you don’t get anything out of it because you’re constantly tending to them. Thank you for coming in spite of all that. Please know that you and your children are welcome here. I understand that it may be easier to sit in the cry room, and that is certainly your choice, but please don’t feel that you have to sit there if you’d rather sit in the main body of the church. The cry room is not supposed to be the place where we banish all parents and kids under four. It isn’t the parent prison. It’s okay to sit in the pews with your child. If they happen to make a little noise or move around a bit, that’s okay too. Don’t ever feel like you aren’t welcome because of your child.
The sound of a child at Mass should make us happy, because that sound means that there is a parent who is taking seriously their mission from God to hand on the faith. All of us are called to hand on the faith. The sacrament of confirmation gives us a special grace to enable us to be witnesses to the faith. In the first reading, we see St. Peter preaching to Cornelius. Preaching the faith isn’t something just reserved for the Apostles. It isn’t just the job of priests and religious and missionaries. All of us are called to preach the faith. All of us are called to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
But we often don’t. There are many reasons we have that keep us from sharing the good news with other people. Maybe we don’t think the person will listen. Maybe we find it difficult to talk to people. Maybe we are afraid they’ll ask a question that we don’t know the answer to. For so many reasons we choose to stay silent rather than fulfill our mission of telling people about Christ.
This is where the example of parents should encourage us. When we think how tough it is to share the faith with someone, just think about how tough it is for parents to bring their child to Mass every week. When we are tempted to avoid telling someone about Christ because we don’t think they’ll listen, think about the parents who bring their children to Mass even though the kid is too young to really understand, because they trust in God’s grace at work.
Both our second reading and the Gospel talk of loving one another. It is the love that parents have for their children that gives them the strength to fulfill their call as parents, even when it is difficult. Our Lord tells us, “Love one another as I have loved you,” and St. John reminds us that God showed His love for us in giving Himself for us. We have no greater example of this kind of self-giving love than the love of parents. Parents give themselves in love for their child, not for their own sake, not because of what they can get out of their child, but simply for the sake of their child. This is the way that God loves us. God doesn’t love us because of what He can get out of us but simply for our sake. We are called to love others in the same way. When we truly love people for their sake, our love will inspire us to share the Gospel with them. Just as a parent’s love gives them the strength to overcome difficulties, so our love for others will give us the strength to overcome whatever fears or difficulties we may have in telling them about Christ.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, there is perhaps no greater example of love than the love of a mother for her child. A mother is able to bear so much out of love for her child. From literally the first moment of her child’s life, she gives herself to them out of love. For many of us, our mother was our first teacher in the faith. She patiently taught us about the love of God, both by word and by example. At times it was difficult, maybe at times we made it more difficult on her than it needed to be. But she did it out of love for us.
Likewise, if we truly love others with a selfless love, we will be able to share the faith with them. We won’t be discouraged by difficulties or fears. Let us ask God to fill us with ever greater love for Him and for others, so that in love we can fulfill our mission to preach the Gospel.