Would We Encourage Our Children to give up Their Lives for Our Faith?
“It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”
-2 Maccabees 7:1-2
Here we have a family defying the orders of a cruel tyrant king for the sake of God’s law. This mother has taught her children to love God to the point of giving their lives for his cause if necessary. One by one, each brother chooses death over disobedience to God. How painful it was for the mother to witness the death of every single one of her seven children right before her own eyes. Yet, she was able to encourage them to die rather than to abandon God's commands. Why? Because her faith was strong. She was sure of what she believed. Her sons didn't even hesitate to give up their lives either. They were taught by word and example at home. They also loved their Lord too much to betray him despite the death threats they had received. All they had to do is eat pork. But as a Jewish family, this was against their religious beliefs. Are we willing to die for our faith? Are we ready to encourage our children to give up their lives for Christ if necessary?
Today we need more mothers and fathers who are willing to inspire a courageous faith to their children. We need families; husbands, wives, parents, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, that are willing to live countercultural. The reality is that many parents are preoccupied with other things. Children and teens have so many games to attend, concerts to prepare for, scholarships to conquer, and leisure activities. Parents don’t have the time or energy to teach their children the faith. Some aren’t aware that they are the primary educators of their children’s faith.
Many children today are being educated by TV, video games, social media, smartphones, tablets, etc. There are those parents who entrust the schools to teach their children about morality and sexuality. They don’t realize that their children are often being taught ideas that are contrary to the beauty and truth of human sexuality.
Our children need to be taught first and foremost by our own example. Are we living the faith? Are we on fire for Christ? Are we living as intentional disciples? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Do we forgive other’s trespasses, and do we ask for forgiveness when we ourselves hurt others? Are we standing up for the poor and the forgotten? Are we speaking up against all forms of racism, discrimination, and injustice? Are we welcoming to the stranger, the immigrant, and the refugee? Are we praying for our political and church leaders? What they see is what our children will end up doing as well. Let us lead and educate by word and deed.
The economy is definitely a factor that often prevents parents from teaching their children. Many low-income and middle-class parents work two jobs and hardly see their children. Finding solutions to this phenomenon isn’t easy. There are other factors, some are reasonable (i.e. an illness, physical or mental) while others aren't: consumerism, relativism, spiritual indifference, acedia, lack of discipline, addictions, etc. Meanwhile, these children are being formed and educated by other family members or friends who don’t always hold the same Christian values. I encourage these families to intentionally look for a time to talk about the faith and expectations of each member. Squeeze in an hour or two a week to facilitate these conversations.
In the end, our children will one day grow up and it might be too late to teach them about and lead them to Christ. As parents, we will always be there for them. But in my years of ministry experience, it is less likely for teenagers and adults to listen to their parents when it comes to God and Church affairs.
My prayer is that families today imitate the courage and fidelity to God that this mother and her sons had in today's reading. Are we willing to and ready to encourage our children to die for their faith if necessary? May we truly make teaching the faith to our children and forming them into missionary disciples a priority. After all, this is our main vocation as fathers and mothers.
“She leaned over close to him and, in derision of the cruel tyrant, said in their native language: ‘Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things. In the same way humankind came into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with your brothers’.”
-2 Maccabees 7:27-29