Apocalypse 14:14-19

In my vision I, John, saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the sanctuary, and shouted aloud to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Put your sickle in and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped.

Another angel, who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the temple in heaven, and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted aloud to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Put your sickle in and cut all the bunches off the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.

Luke 21:5-11
When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question:

‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

Reflection from Fr Erbin Fernandez

Can I see such deception already in the time I am living in? How many persons we hear of who have been deceived as they sacrificed their families, their souls, their health at the altar of power, wealth and fame?

Oh my Lord, it is true we are living in such times with so much violence. Do I give in to fear and pessimism when I witness such events? Teach me, Lord to fight the real battle, the spiritual battle in my own heart first. So that I can teach others the art of spiritual warfare in the heart. Help me to transmit this art to my children, my friends, colleagues, in inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, between spouses, at the work place, in politics.

Action: Today I will keep a discerning eye to all that happens in my day. Seeking to perceive its deeper meaning.

Performance Anxiety in Parenting from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers

Performance anxiety obscures a clear view of the little human being in front of you. Take Amelia, twenty-seven when she had Etha, the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Amelia had read a great deal of parenting literature, joined mothers’ chat rooms, and was particularly determined to track little Ethan’s development “by the book”. She called me regularly throughout Ethan’s infancy, always beginning each question with, “In my What to Expect book, it says Ethan should be…” Every call heralded a different concern: smiling, rolling over, sitting up. By toddlerhood, the questions changed a bit: “What can I do to help him to climb better?” or “He should be into finger food now. What can I give him so he won’t choke?” Or she’d read about a new theory – for instance, teaching babies sign language – and immediately rush to try it. A new class for toddlers? She was eager to join it, insisting that Ethan “needed to develop his motor skills” or “develop his creativity”. Any new toy on the market? She’d buy it. There never seemed to be an ordinary day in this mum’s life. She was always presenting a new gadget or activity that she believed would help Ethan develop, teach him a new skill, or give him an edge on other children.

“Ethan is always in a bad mood,” Amelia told me when her son was eighteen months old. “I’m worried that he’s becoming a difficult child.” Spending a few hours with mother and son, it was clear that she was getting more joy out of the activities and toys she foisted on him than he was. Instead of observing and accepting him for who he was, she had been schlepping him all over town. Instead of allowing him to explore and take the lead, she kept buying him more “stuff”. His room looked like a toy store!

“Ethan has been who he is all along,” I assured her, remembering the knitted brow I had so often observed on his baby self. “He hasn’t changed. He was a Grumpy baby, and now he’s a Grumpy toddler, who likes to play on his own time and terms and to pick his own activities.” I explained to Amelia that in her eagerness to be the best mum in the world – an enthusiasm that clearly bordered on overinvolvement – she wasn’t seeing the little boy in front of her. Maybe subconsciously she was trying to change Ethan’s nature. In any case, that wouldn’t work; she had to accept who he was.

Amelia’s aunt had been telling her for the last several months, “You’re overdoing everything, overthinking, and overscheduling that poor little boy of yours.”

Amelia confessed “I didn’t even know what she meant. I guess part of the problem was that with everyone telling me what a good mother I was, I felt like I had to prove something.

Parenting is a process, not an event, and each minute didn’t have to be “enriched” or filled with meaningful activity.

Reflecting on my life and on some of the things happening around me, I think it is natural for humans – parents included, even though sometimes a parent is more of a superhero than human – to be obsessed with things that really don’t matter as much as they think. From a spiritual perspective, obsession with such things are actually the ways which we succumb to the ordinary activities of the devil (where extraordinary activities are demonic possession). But that’s a whole other discourse. There are many practical, negative aspects to a parent’s obsession, which I will talk about here.

When we were young, obsession with something mainly affected only ourselves. The danger is when we bring those obsessions into parenthood – our obsessions then translate into the way we think we are caring for our children – and this can have disastrous effects.

As parents, Audrey and I frequently have conversations about parenthood and on raising our children. Reflecting deeply on some of the root causes of many of the problems we observe, I firmly believe (and it was somewhat confirmed by the consultant in the book) that many parents who are obsessed with unimportant things are also in love with the idea of being a parent, rather than being a parent themselves. It’s the same as how stressed out adults often take to “retail therapy” to relieve their stress. They enjoy the idea of shopping – of the “power” they wield with the money they have – more than the enjoyment gotten from the benefits that the purchased item conveys.

I think if our child has tonnes of unused stuff lying around, or if we find ourselves seeking to portray a different (exaggerated or untrue) reality to outsiders, then these are sure signs that should cause us to pause and reflect.

Do we find ourselves organising and packing our child’s schedule with all kinds of “enrichment” activities? Or worse still, do we find ourselves utterly paralysed with the excitement of the idea of being the world’s best parent that we end up ignoring our child, or leaving the actual “execution” of our plans to other people? Maybe we parents are suffering from performance anxiety – the perpetual need to seek approval and praise from the people around us – rather than being the best parent for our child.

This is where having our faith helps us. Because only what God thinks of us is most important. I can, from experience, share that if we sought to fill that hole in our lives with the praise of others or the temporary excitement from some activity, we will find that we will never be able to fill that hole, even if we keep outdoing ourselves each time. In fact, that’s how obsession often begins. But again, from experience, I can also say that when you fill that God-shaped hole with the love that Jesus Christ has for us… nothing else matters!

Lastly, I feel that my generation has gotten it wrong. We all have a sense of entitlement; that we’re entitled to enjoy our lives, to do the things we want to do. All I can say is that we’ve gotten it wrong. Being a parent isn’t easy. But that’s the sacrifice a parent has to make – sacrifice for our children, in fact, is what qualifies us as a parent. Moreover, parenthood is enjoyable. We must always remember that it is a process, a process within which every decision and action that we make contributes to the overall richness of our child’s upbringing. The moment we look at parenthood and the tasks it entails as a chore, then we will just become functional caregivers. We will lose our patience easily. We will affect our child.