Did You Know God Picks who goes with You?

When we hear the Holy Father speak to us about the Christian life being a pilgrimage, he is telling us that life is not only about getting someplace quickly, rather it is about who is with you on the road, and who might stop along the way to help us, and whom we might meet needing our help. To live life as a pilgrimage we must constantly remind ourselves that God has a hand in who is on the road with us. God’s providence is something that works constantly in our lives. In a certain sense our salvation is based on how generously we respond to the people God puts into our lives.

We live in a world that likes to take control over our own destiny — “I want to be the one who makes the decisions as to what path I take.” And that’s okay to a certain extent; we should have a certain amount of control and plans. But what is absolutely key to the Gospel is the call to live in the truth that life is not only about the plans that I make. It’s also about the people God, in his wisdom, puts in the path of life. The Good Samaritan allowed the person in his path to change the direction of his life. Sometimes people are a blessing by being a burden. We are blessed when God calls something out of us, to be generous to someone else. It does change us. It makes us more Christ like. Jesus is the one who came down from heaven, and it was all about who he met along the way. He didn’t say, “I have no time, because I have other plans.” This is central to the Gospel announced by Jesus the Lord.

People are the gift of God the Father, designed to mold the course of our lives for the better. If we change the course of our lives every day in little ways, if we have a sense there are no accidents and it’s the providence of God, then our eyes open. We develop a graceful sense that this person is someone God the Father has put in my life. In some way I have to acknowledge them and respond to them after the fashion of Christ Jesus.

In a Catholic family, a family takes to heart the grace of the whole Gospel as a welcoming, hospitable gift given to us so as to open up our hearts to the beauty of life. As it is with a stranger, like the one met by the Good Samaritan, so it is when a baby comes into the family. We must respond.

How precious it is for the whole family to have joy at the announcement of the birth of a child. It is a great grace to be able to rejoice. This joyful attitude flows from the heart of the Christian family life. What did the angels say to us? “I announce to you a tiding of great joy, a child is born unto us.” They were announcing the birth of the savior, and yet such joy is a hallmark of Christian family hospitality whenever we hear that a child is coming into the world. To be able to say spontaneously and from the heart “What great news!” is a great grace. And it is not so common a response as it once was.

Why? Because we live in a culture that does not so much welcome children anymore. Just look at the statistics. The birth rates in Europe and the birthrates in the United States are falling and falling. There is a spirit powerful in our country, and in others as well. It is a spirit that basically says to the modern family unit, “Children get in the way of your plans. Even one child gets in the way of your plans.” The culture we live in, because it is often focused on a distorted perception of what we call “the American Dream”: having all the material things we deem important, and convenient. If material success is the highest value, then it is no wonder that the society begins to think that children simply get in the way.

A Catholic family needs to nurture that sense that new life is far greater and more precious than material possessions. With this sense of love for life comes a spirit of joy that fills us with smiles and laughter in the presence of little children. It is the Spirit of God that engenders in us this joy when God gives us a child.

A child changes our lives. Maybe that’s why modern culture is afraid, because you can’t predict what a child will require from you.

And, as I said, our society places great value on being able to control every outcome and plan. But this fear disappears in the light of the Gospel. Life is not only or even primarily about what our plans are and what I want and what I’m going to get from life, but rather life is also about what God gives us, about what opens up when the unexpected happens. When a child comes into our world, and the world as we know it changes. As my mother told my sister when she was expecting her first child, “In the house, the baby rules, not you.” What did she mean? She meant that you respond to the need of the one who depends on you. Daddy too has to get up at 2 in the morning and help change diapers, as my brother-in-law learned. But this kind of giving of ourselves is what makes our hearts grow in grace.

Instead of getting frustrated with people, and complaining, “They are taking time from me,” we need to remember who gives us time in the first place. Our time is especially important in our families. That’s why I tell mothers and fathers, the most important gift you can give to your child is your attention, your time. Children, at all ages, want your time. Yes, there are difficulties in families. We all have people who make us uncomfortable, even in families, but we can’t close the door on them. We need to be open to let people affect us and accept people for who they are. It is at the root of a family. It is the road to reconciliation. Just extend your hand and say, “we are in this together”.

The crisis of modern society is the crisis of family life. It is the great crisis, and the road to restoring family life is that sense of mercy and patience, and that joyful sense of welcoming life. That attitude makes us a merciful people. We are called to be merciful and patient and welcoming. We must have compassionate families, it’s the only road to peace. The other road is constant conflict, and the Lord did not make us for conflict. The healing comes from God’s grace. Our principal job in this life is to look at others and love them to God.

– Rev. Daniel E. Flores