Sunday, January 16, 2022

Encouraging the Miracle Our Children Already Are - Mary's example at the Wedding of Cana

Parents always want the best for their children.  Before having kids, we dream of what being a parent would entail, imagining what our kids would be like.  Many of us have dreams at the moment our children are born, holding them in our arms for the first time, admiring the miracle that brought them into this world then flashing forward in our minds.  But reality can often hit us in ways that we never imagined.  From congenital anomalies, to learning disabilities, to behavioral issues, to social anxiety, chronic illnesses.  A whole slew of issues that none of us had ever imagined going through before becoming a parent.  It can be overwhelming, often making us wonder if we were the cause of our child's ailments/sufferings.  We question if we're even good enough to care for such a child.  The greatest challenge for some is fully accepting who our children are for themselves and finding ways for them to flourish within their limitations.  It is not a easy road, but there is one person we can turn to for guidance: our Blessed Mother.

Let us reflect on what transpired at the Wedding of Cana, the moment of Jesus' first miracle prompted by His Mother. She made her request knowing who He was and all that He could do. She also knew of the impact His miracle would have on his followers along with those who would witness this first sign. Most people focus on everything from Jesus addressing Mary as Woman, the significance of the wine or the reason why this happened at a wedding banquet. Our focus is going to be the confidence Mary had in Jesus knowing what He could do when it came to changing water into wine. This was a mother who not only knew her child, but accepted who He was and encouraged Him to do what He was called for even before He felt He was ready showing her belief in Him.

Both of us are hit hard by such an idea due to the fact that we have sons on the autism spectrum. For years, many would ask such parents if your child as Asperger's Syndrome with the assumption that each child had a specific condition. Today, this language is no longer used because the idea is to identify the child for who they are and where they fit on the spectrum. There are certainly specific traits that such children demonstrate in their day to day activities but again, there is always an intention for the professionals to know the child for their unique characteristics.  The second reading today, the second Sunday of Ordinary time, says it in the letter to the Corinthians: “There are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

Despite the number of tests medical professionals perform, there are persons’ whose observations are very important in assessment, diagnosis and care planning, whether it is for physical ailments and disabilities, mental health ones, learning disabilities, behavioral concerns, emotional ones or any other issues a child may be going through: the parents'. No one knows a child like their mother and father.  No battery of tests can ever truly determine the nuances in our children's strengths or areas of improvement.  Most especially, no test can ever diagnose the greatness of their hearts.

It couldn't have been easy for our Blessed Mother.  How many of us look back at old photos of our children, hoping and wishing they would stop growing?  At each stage of their lives, we begin to loosen the reigns, allow them room to grow and be who they are.  But that doesn't mean we don't pine for the days they would just fall asleep on our chest and be in our arms.  By asking Jesus to perform this miracle, she essentially was saying, "Son, I believe in you.  I believe in what you could do.  I accept who you are. I love you for who you are.  I'm willing to let go so you can do what God called you to do."  She proved this even more by telling the servants at the wedding “Do what he tells you.”  She did not try and control the situation herself, but trusted in what Jesus could do.  And rather than the wedding party seeming to follow the traditional norm, the best wine was given last.  Our children who do not follow the norm of growth and development, of average milestones, they have a very special gift that when it manifests can be the greatest gift, and we have to trust that it is there within them, and that it will bless us and touch our lives in a way that we could never have imagined.

From a Christian perspective, this should make us reflect on the passage from Isaiah 43:1: I have called you by name. Our God is a God of love who wants to know each of us as the individual that He created out of love. This was best demonstrated in the coming of Jesus Christ not only as one of us but to also teach us of the kind of relationship that God wants with all of us, a personal one (Romans 8:15 & Galatians 4:6). He has extended the invitation for us to go to Him in prayer and to love Him through our faith life and by loving our neighbor. This can also be done through our struggles when we take them to Him in prayer and allow Him to offer the graces that we need at that moment.

We can deduce that having Jesus as a son very likely challenged Mary's faith.  Knowing, from the moment of His conception, who she was carrying, it's a great weight and burden.  How could she not feel the challenge to do all she could to make sure that Jesus "advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man" (Lk 2:52)?  When we teach our children at a young age who God truly is, we can begin to see faith through their eyes.  The gift of the innocent love for God can motivate us, and should motivate us, to love God more so that we can be better examples of that same faith to our children.  As it was through Mary's faith that she believed in her child, it is through faith that we should believe in our own.

But another challenge that plagues most parents in today's society and economy are the normal day-to-day barriers that get in the way. The Church teaches that the parents are the primary educator of the child. However, this is changing  as more and more children are having to turn to teachers, coaches and other adult mentors for the guidance that they should be getting from their parents. While, such love and generosity is appreciated it still does not remove the reality of a parent being absent either physically or psychologically. We sometimes justify our absence with the idea that we are providing for our families. While that is true, it is only providing the basic necessities needed for physical survival, but not necessarily the love, support and personal attention needed by our children to grow.  Often with this busy lifestyle, parents become mentally removed from the presence of their children that they lose sight of who their children truly are. Children need their parents and we have to find ways to better balance our lives so that we can physically provide for our children while still giving the emotional support that they need.

Psalm 127:3 speaks of the value of children and this is a mindset that Jesus would have grown up with. That and the love and support he would have received from Mary and Joseph. Parents always speak of their own struggles and the gift they feel when they receive guidance from other adults who have experienced these same struggles. Taking these struggles to prayer is not only a way to empower our parenting skills but another way for us to grow closer to Christ in our own relationship with Him. Further, this is something parents can share with their children who should also be encouraged to pursue their own relationship with the Lord.

Mary had faith in who Jesus was, hope that He could help those in need with the gifts that she could see in him and unconditional love for her son.  Let us learn to have the same faith, hope and love in our own children, building on their strengths, helping them through their weaknesses, and allowing them to flourish with the unique gifts that they have to share to the world.

Angelica Delallana

Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
Fertility Care Practitioner Intern and NaPro Technology Medical Consultant Intern with the St. Paul VI Institute
Confirmation Catechist
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate

Carlos Solorzano

BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate