URING A PRAYER MEETING in the midst of the recent Christmas season God gave us a beautiful gift. He sent his Son to us, he said, as a small baby born in a manger. Mary, his mother, invited us to hold her newborn child and, as we passed him first to the Magi and then to one another, the glow which was within us became stronger and stronger. Love was multiplied as it was given away. By this action Mary's overflowing maternal love for her infant son was immediately transformed into agape love, God's unconditional love for all mankind.
I pondered this precious word in the context of my recent initiation into "grandmotherhood", which is proving to be one of my most welcome and profound life experiences. What does God's message mean to me in my new role in my natural family? What does it tell me about my membership in my Church community and in the worldwide family of God? Are there some parallels? Is there a unique role for grandparents in the Church?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Article 2220) suggests that grandparents are a vital link in the transmission of "the gift of faith, the grace of baptism and life in the Church." Saint Paul in his second letter to Timothy pays tribute to his dear friend's blessed heritage:
I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well (2 Tm 1:5).
Faith, like love has no meaning in isolation but must be shared with others, and the very act of handing it on enriches us as believers. The Catechism says it so well in Article 166: "Our love for Jesus and for our neighbour impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith." By encouraging and fostering and modelling the living out of the Gospel with and for my grandson I am taking my essential place as part of a network of Christian witness and support that connects this nuclear family to the larger family of the Church.
God has indeed created, it seems, a special place for grandparents, as we read in Proverbs 17:6, The crown of the aged is their children's children. (I prefer to think of myself as "mature"!) In our call as Christians to live harmoniously and to respect one another in love, we provide both example and opportunity for mutual caring. Thus the light that emanates from the family grows in brightness as it extends through us to the rest of the world and acts as a beacon of light and warmth, a tangible expression of the transcendent love of Jesus for his people.
So it's just as I suspected. When I felt such wave of love for my newborn grandson as he was placed in my arms just minutes after his birth, and when I continue to experience such a strong bond of love being forged between us, I know this must hold some larger meaning for me as a child of God and a member of his Church. To serve in this new way is an honor and a privilege.