"Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Matthew 22:21 (You may read the other versions/translations and commentaries about this verse here.)
This was our point for reflection last Wednesday when our Parish Priest visited us at home during our eldest son's birthday celebration. This was also part of the Gospel yesterday.
I had been contemplating about how blessed I am to be given the privilege to have children this past week since it's our eldest son's birthday week. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for God for blessing my womb and allowing me to bear not one, but three children.
One of the blessings of motherhood that I feel most grateful for is the honor and privilege of raising kids and bringing them up to love and honor the Lord.
When I was still single, I had been actively serving the Church by immersing myself in a lot of evangelistic activities/work as part of the Catholic Charismatic communities I was a part of. Through these communities, I had the privilege to share about the Gospel and the love of God to many people.
I also shared my story/personal testimony to different groups especially after I published my first book When My Bridegroom Comes.
I travelled less often and gave talks less often after I got pregnant and had children, one after another.
I am home most days especially now that I am pregnant with our third child.
But one thing that God impressed upon my heart is that I am right where He wants me to be at this time of my life - at home with my children.
I feel a profound joy and peace knowing this.
I used to dream of doing big things for God and the kingdom when I was much younger. But when I got married, slowly but surely, God made me realize that my first and primary mission work is at home. That the first people I need to bring to the Lord are my family members. And now that I have children, my main mission (aside from being a witness to my husband) is to bring the hearts and souls of our children to God.
I learned that I am as much in mission as the missionaries who leave their families and homes to proclaim the Gospel in other countries.
It may seem that I am doing very ordinary or sometimes insignificant work (like routine chores at home) but the truth is whatever I do here at home for the glory of God is still part of my missionary work.
Before I should dream or work to evangelize people outside of my home, I need to evangelize the people in my own home.
God has entrusted these precious hearts and souls into my care. I pray that I would do well in raising them to be the kind of men that God wants them to be.
Like what I shared with our guests last Wednesday, I actually think that it is much easier to give talks outside the home than to evangelize our kids daily, not so much with words but more so with my actions. I make a lot of mistakes daily and my kids witness these. It's humbling and at the same time challenging to keep on choosing to be faithful to the mission and to the call to follow Jesus and to encourage others (our kids particularly) to do the same.
Yesterday, the priest in his homily highlighted the verse "Give to God what belongs to God." He reminded us that we were all made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, it is our duty to bring back humanity to God. His words affirmed me of my duty to bring my children to God. Yes, I will also do my share in bringing other people to God but I will begin in my own home, with my children.
I felt God encouraging me through these developments since I have started teaching our Catholic ABC curriculum to our two sons. It's my way of making sure I am able to pass on my faith and the catechisms of the Catholic Church to them even at a young age. I wanted to make sure that our Catholic faith is an essential part of their education. Actually, that's one of the main reasons my husband and I chose to homeschool them. We want them to have a solid faith foundation.
I've learned that is so easy to teach academic subjects to kids. But teaching them values and forming their character is not that easy. It's not something that you can teach in one or two sessions and you'd expect them to take those values on. I can teach my sons, especially the eldest, academic concepts in one or two sessions and he would remember a lot of what we have discussed. But with character formation, it's a different story. I need to exercise patience and I need to consistently give reminders. I need to model the values and be a good role model to my kids day in and day out.
That's why I believe that it's only by the grace of God that our kids are growing up to be these kind of kids -- loving and prayerful. With all my flaws and shortcomings, I thank the Lord that they are taking on the values that we want them to take on.
One of my joys as a mother is witnessing my sons pray with all their hearts to God. I rejoice every time I see them automatically turn to God in prayer for whatever need or concern they may have. My heart leaps for joy when they are eager to go to Mass to worship God and when they participate with hearts full of devotion. During these times, I feel that all my efforts are being rewarded.
When they remember things that we have discussed about our faith, I feel a sense of fulfillment because I know that I am somehow fulfilling my mission as their mother.
Give to God what belongs to God... these children belong to God. They were entrusted temporarily into our care. It is my duty (together with my husband) to lead them to God. I dream and look forward to that day when I would see them serving God and honoring Him in their own unique ways. Will God call one of my boys to serve Him through the priesthood? I don't know. If it does happen, I would be honored to have raised a son who will serve the Church in that capacity. But whatever God would call them to do, I pray that I would be able to give the support that they need to fulfill that call and mission.
I love these lines from one of my desk calendars:
"God knows the feelings of discouragement, inadequacy, and failure which conscientious parents feel. But it was His idea to make them parents and to give them this particular set of children. He is Father to the parents, and promises every kind of help they need." (emphasis mine)
I do not think that it is coincidence that these lines were featured today in my desk calendar. I know in my heart that it is the Lord speaking to me through my desk calendar this morning.
He knows how much I need His words of affirmation and encouragement.
I thank the Lord for choosing to use me in spite of my sins and imperfection. May He continue to give me the grace to walk faithfully in this path and to plant the seeds of faith in these young hearts and souls.