Marriage, family and relationships are important themes in this weekend’s scripture. It is timely to remember that we should never underestimate or take for granted how unique our families are – no matter what they look like at the moment!
There is a story of a father of a teenage son. One day he is confronted by his wife who challenges him to spend more time with their teenage son. “He needs you,” she said, “and you are neglecting him!” “He doesn’t need me!” the father protested. “He’s at an age where he should be cutting the family strings somewhat more.”
So more out of guilt than conviction the father goes to the TV room and asks the teenager to accompany him to the supermarket. The son, more out of boredom than interest, agrees.
In the car on the way to the supermarket there is silence – so the father tries to make conversation.
“How’s school?” “Okay,” came the reply.
“How’s football?” “It’s okay.”
“What were you watching on TV?” “Nothing!”
After that exchange, things went silent. At the supermarket, still in silence, they loaded the items they wanted into the trolley and waited in line while a very slow and disinterested check-out operator dealt with the customers ahead of them.
Finally, their turn came. Half way through scanning the items, the father, pulls out a $50 note which the check-out operator sees, and very uninterested, continues to scan the items. But the father realizes that it is not going to cost that much so he puts back the $50 note and replaces it with a $20 note - but the check-out operator does not notice this.
The price for their groceries comes to $19 and the check-out operator gave the father $31 change—on a $20 note. But, instead of walking out of the store $30 richer, the father instead calmly pointed out to the check-out operator his mistake and returned to him the $30 that he had, in his inattention, incorrectly given.
The teenage son was quietly impressed. When they were in the car, his son said as much – that was neat – a good thing to do! Then, without any prodding from his father, the son began to talk and to share with him a lot of things about his life, including how school was going, how football was going, and what he had been watching on TV.
The father, for his part, said little and, in fact, heard little for he was thinking: “If my son had not been with me, I would have kept the $30! Moreover, my wife is wrong, my son doesn’t need me … I need him!”
Perhaps it is a gentle reminder that - Our children raise us, not vice versa. It is they who put a rope around us and take us where we would rather not go, namely, into adulthood. We become adult by having and raising and looking after children. This, perhaps more than anything else, moves us beyond being children ourselves.
Fr Peter Brannelly