Parents spend many years preparing their children for their future. Miles of driving from activity to activity and hours of sitting on sidelines and bleachers cheering them on, all in the name of raising them as well rounded. The only problem is, Church often is the last item on the list of important activities for our children’s future.
Brethren, our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. - Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1-3
I can say nothing more than St Paul today. Raising children isn’t about getting them into the best colleges or preparing them for the best career track. Raising children is about preparing them for heaven. It is about time we prioritize becoming ‘good citizens’ of heaven as our goal as parents.
The Church isn’t innocent in this struggle either. Too many of our youth ministries focus on socialization at the expense of prayer and communion. Remember when in-person ministries were stopped during the pandemic? For months, many parishes had just worship services in person, and even when allowed many did not attend. It wasn’t because of the pandemic, for the most part. It was because nobody ever taught them to “just be in Church” when they were young.
Tomorrow offers us a new chance. Thanksgiving is traditionally a day for families to gather around a banquet table for a huge feast, giving thanks for their many blessings. That is a good start, but it is not the best start. The Divine Liturgy, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (Divine Thanksgiving in Greek), is the ultimate expression of thanking God for our blessings.
If we are going to prepare our children, and ourselves, to become citizens of heaven as St Paul reminds us today, then let’s start by being in Church for Thanksgiving. If your local parish does not have Divine Liturgy for Thanksgiving, maybe a neighboring parish does. If all else fails, take time as a family, and tune in to a livestream from a Church that does have Liturgy, but don’t just watch. Wash yourselves, get dressed, and sit as a family together without breakfast for the Divine Liturgy. Once the Liturgy has concluded, enjoy the day knowing you gave thanks to God in the proper way. Everything else is just a dinner.