~Bernard Lonergan, S. J.
Where do you want your child to go, Harvard or Heaven? While this may seem like a silly
question there is something behind it that every parent should contemplate. What is the trajectory that you want for your child? Is it to be successful in this life or to achieve eternal life?
Let’s be clear. There is nothing wrong with wanting a child to get accepted to a prestigious university. It is possible for a young person to pass through Harvard on the way to Heaven. But what parents need to consider is which of these two is more important. Is it more important to set one’s sights on earthly success or is it better to set one’s focus on returning to Our Almighty Father?
Parenting for worldly success in today’s world is very different from parenting for eternal salvation. It requires that the parents buy into secular thought and relativism. Secular thought means that parents will allow their children to think for themselves and create their own standards. They will be directed to invent their own rules of morality with an understanding that these rules can change. Relativism is the acceptance that what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. That is why parents who want success for their children here on earth will promote diversity and tolerance. They will expose their children to every possible lifestyle and activity so that they are not limited nor held back.
Accessing worldly gain will also include an “enlightened” understanding of God and faith. The Bible will be considered literature rather than the Word of God. It should be read like any classic but never considered the basis for a life well lived. And God will be reduced to a thing rather than a person. God will be considered a universal force that could be eternal if someone can conclusively prove God exists. Human reason and experience will be the bedrock of any decision which means that faith will be directed towards oneself rather than towards an eternal Supreme Being.
A quest to achieve all that this world has to offer will include the creation of a career path that is based on what the young person enjoys doing. Parents will help the child build this path by reducing all of the hardships and removing all of the obstacles. They will ensure that the youth feels motivated and excited by applauding any effort that may advance towards that livelihood.
How does this compare with parenting for eternal salvation? The most obvious difference is that parents who want their children to spend eternity in Heaven will acknowledge God’s existence each and every day. They will leave no doubt that all that is found on earth is a gift from God. They will show gratitude for these gifts and cultivate that sense of praise for the Almighty in their children. And, they will participate in a faith community. They will make the effort to become part of a parish, attend Mass, and joyfully worship in community with others. Parents with an everlasting focus will desire the grace of the sacraments and find peace in God’s unconditional love.
Parents who want more for their young people than this world offers will pray. They will let their children see them offer prayers of praise and adoration, petition and thanksgiving. They will teach their children to pray and delight in doing so.
Godly parents will live by and teach their children God’s standards that empower us to determine what is right and wrong. They will not waiver on the Ten Commandments but rather strive to live according to them. They will accept the crosses that they are given and bear their loads joyfully. They will not complain either that life is unfair or that they have to suffer, because they know that this world is fallen. It is not the final destination for a person created in the image and likeness of God.
Finally, parents who set their gaze on God’s will know that connecting their children with the Creator is the only thing that truly matters. They will focus on helping their children live according to God’s will and build the Kingdom of God here on earth. These parents will help their children cultivate a personal desire to know, love and serve God.
So, what will it be Mom and Dad? Where do you want your child to end up? Heaven or Harvard? Which one matters more?
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