Catholic Family Fuel: Search diligently for the child
January 23, 2012
By Sean Reynolds
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child” (Matthew 2:7,8).
Ironic, isn’t it, the thought of taking our marching orders from someone like Herod, but that’s what I’m suggesting. What does it mean for us, for Catholic parents and families, for the domestic churches of our homes, to “search diligently for the child” — to seek Christ, and not just in the Christmas season, but throughout the year? What can we learn from the Magi, these mysterious characters who briefly appear in the Gospel of Matthew then disappear from history.
Look up and pay attention: They apparently were students of the heavens, so when the star appeared, they not only noticed but got the message. With the harried pace of family life, and our busyness that keeps us from looking heavenward and paying attention, have you found yourself saying as I have, “…things will hopefully slow down next month…?” That was our mantra for years, and things never did, unless my wife, Leah, put her foot down. If we’re going to “search diligently for the child,” it’s going to take that kind of decisiveness and push-back on this crazy culture of ours that seems to glorify busyness and keep us from “studying the heavens.” Be diligent: slow down, pray, breathe, be present, pay attention and daily seek Christ.
Be courageous and single-minded: The Magi had the courage to leave their homeland with the single-mindedness to stay on the path following the star. They had their priorities set and stayed with them. It’s likely they were viewed by those they passed as odd, foolish (on perilous roads in foreign lands), and perhaps even flaky. Following a star? Into danger?
Most of us seem swept along by social circumstances and wake up sometime downstream wondering what happened. After almost 30 years of marriage, I’m proudest of the times when we, as parents, by grace, courage and single-minded determination bucked conventional expectations about lifestyle, money and appearances. We’ve never been upwardly mobile; we have a humble home and our kids always got it that our priorities were elsewhere. Our kids will also tell you, accurately, that we weren’t always consistent and sometimes caved to the culture. We’re so not perfect, just very grateful for the Gospel that blessed us and taught us to ignore many of the cultural imperatives that can drive families over the edge. Be diligent: buck conventional expectations and set your priorities — faith and family first, then work, sports and everything else.
Ask questions and seek help: Apparently, the Magi weren’t shy about asking for directions, since that’s what brought them to the attention of Herod. It’s a standing joke that we men are allergic to asking for directions. Whether from dumb pride or overconfidence, most of us are guilty as charged. As dads we could learn a lot from the Magi, especially when it comes to actively seeking wisdom to guide our kids in their faith and serve as strong faith leaders in our homes. Be diligent (and humble): don’t go it alone, seek resources, ask for help, and read at least one good book on faith, spirituality and family each year.
Offer your own gifts, unique and special: Although the names of the Magi never appear in the Gospel, their gifts are legendary: gold, frankincense and myrrh. When we parents get together, we frequently discuss how different our kids are from one another, each with unique and special gifts and challenges. Once you think you have it down with your first child, you learn that your “usual stuff” doesn’t work with the next. Again the wisdom of the Magi: they bring different gifts, and so must we to our parenting. One child needs the “frankincense” of lots of coaching, direction and hands-on support, and another needs the “myrrh” of space, independence and self-direction. Be diligent: as a parent, expand your range of parenting gifts and skills via research, reading, workshops and sharing ideas with other parents.
Bring it on home: As the story goes, the Magi paid the child homage, then went home by a different way, taking the good news of the newborn King with them. As parents and leaders of our domestic churches, so do we; the epiphanies of our own faith, whether in prayer, in the sacraments, at work, in our volunteer service, whenever we encounter Christ, need to be shared back at home. Be diligent: seize every opportunity to share your faith with your family day to day over breakfast, at the dinner table, in the car, at bedtime, through personal stories, Scripture stories and prayer.
From Herod’s lips to our ears, we parents have our marching orders: search diligently for the child. With God’s abundant grace may we, as parents and leaders of our domestic churches, keep our eyes heavenward, follow the star with courage and single-minded determination and bring home the good news.
Reynolds is the director of the archdiocese Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.