By the time you read this, I pray that my nephew and his wife have safely delivered their first child, a daughter. As I anticipate a “great” niece, for whom I will become a “great” uncle (I am sure all my nephews and nieces think of me as “great”!), I am struck by what a “gift” a child is. We celebrated Mother’s Day last month and will honor Father’s Day this month, but my thoughts turn to a child.
A first reflection is that a child is an embodiment of love. Now I know that there are occasions when violence has led to conception or a child is not really wanted, but even in those cases, that baby embodies God’s love who has given life not just to that child but to those who will care for him or her.
The notion that a child is a gift is not something that is reflected in a lot of talk about children these days. Instead, it seems like we think about a child more as a product or as something to which I have a right, something that is owed to me. This could tend to treat a child as a piece of property rather than as a being with a human dignity granted by our Creator. We see this most clearly in our contraceptive mentality or in the availability of abortion or in our search to find new ways to conceive children apart from the God-given method.
This leads us to a second reflection especially focused on those who would love to receive the gift of a child from God but are unable to do so for any number of reasons. This can be a cause of great suffering. Again, solutions that are sought must respect the child as a gift and not as a commodity. And solutions must also respect the natural union of man and woman such that a child is truly the fruit of God’s call to humanity to be fruitful and multiply.
A third reflection is that any child is both an expression of and a call for parental generosity. This is not just a whimsical generosity, but a sacrificial one. One of the biggest sacrifices is that marriage is no longer about just you and me. Married love becomes other-focused. And even those who suffer infertility can join their sacrifices, their sufferings, to the tremendous love of our savior, Jesus Christ. The fruit of Jesus’ suffering was salvation for us; the fruit of all sacrificial offerings, both of those who are parents and those who are not, can be an increased dedication to the human dignity of all those we meet. For, not only is every child a gift, but every person is a gift. The other side of that equation is that we are also a gift and it is in giving ourselves away that we truly receive.
A blessed summer to all of you.