First, a disclaimer. Yes, I am breaking my own “gentle guidelines” for Sabbath by posting this today. (I told you they weren’t hard and fast rules!) Yes, this is coming later than I would have liked, ideally several days before Sunday to give enough time for reflection.
But that’s ok. The whole point of this new series – parenting & Scripture – is to offer busy parents of young children a chance to reflect on the Sunday readings outside of Mass (often known as a three-ring-circus-of-Cheerios-and-cry-rooms).
Something small to chew on as we’re chasing the little ones and wondering, “Did I even hear the readings today?” Or, in today’s case, something to muse over after we’ve put the babies to bed.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (click here for the readings in full)
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,”Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
My toddler tests me all the time. Tests my patience. Tests my boundaries. Tests my parenting techniques and my very confidence that I should have procreated in the first place. (I kid. Kind of. Depending on the day.)
The twos are a time of testing, to be sure. The books tell me that; fellow parents-of-toddlers confirm it. The emergence of a will and the language to express it are wonderful developments in the unfolding of a child’s personality. But for those who have to live with them, day in and day out, the tantrums and testing can push us to the limits.
We often read about Jesus getting “tested” in the Gospels. Tested by those tricky Pharisees. Tested by wary scholars. Though he was never a parent with a toddler testing his patience or a teenager testing the boundaries, Jesus was tested by friends, followers, and foes alike.
Sometimes I imagine Jesus growing as weary with the testing – the incessant badgering, the obvious set-ups, the conniving questions – as I can become with the toddler’s constant whines and questions. Why? Why? Why? How? How? How?
But today’s Gospel offers an example of testing as teaching moment. Jesus turns the scholar’s question into an opportunity to speak profound words on the nature and truth of love: how we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourself.
Jesus doesn’t roll his eyes at the question. He doesn’t sigh at being tested yet again. He doesn’t fly off the handle or lash out in anger. Every time he is tested, he rises above any selfish motives the tester might have and responds with love, giving the benefit of the doubt.
How do I turn the testing moments of parenting into teaching moments? How do I respond with patience and kindness? How can I see the times of testing as opportunities to rise above and grow in love?
How about you: what tests your parenting? Your patience?
How do you respond?