"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness" (Matthew 6: 22-32).
Today in the Holy Orthodox Church is the Third Sunday after Pentecost we read from St. Matthew's gospel that "the eye is the lamp of the body". What does this mean for parents? How can we help our children be full of light? One way is to interpret the events of the world for them in ways that can make them wiser.
In previous Smart Parenting articles (Morelli, 2005; 2006a,b,c), I wrote that it is important it for parents and other child caretakers that by engaging the events of the world to which childen are exposed, we can teach them about Christ. A current news event provides a good example.
Who has not heard about the life and narcissistic exploits, the recent jailing and histrionics of a Hollywood socialite brat? Imagine asking your child: What do you think about her actions? How does she treat people? How does she treat her body? Is this how Jesus would tell us to act? What would Jesus tell her to do? See what they have to say. These questions will help the child discern constructive behaviors and the reasons for them.
After that, ask them the most important question of all: Why does Jesus tell us to act differently than the way she is acting? If you must answer, don't only say: "Jesus tells us to obey Him, obey God, or obey the Commandments -- Obedience merely for the sake of obedience in other words, which refers only to the "letter of the law." Instead affirm the child in the "spirit of the law": God loves us and respects us, he wants us to love and respect all as He loves us.
So what can we say about the self-centered socialite? First of all she is blind. St. John Chrysostom's commentary on this gospel points out the mind is to the soul as the eye is to the body. "When the mind is depraved you will be filled with countless evils," he taught (Manley, 1984). St. John poinedt out that God gives us understanding so we may chase out all ignorance and have the right judgment about things. He called understanding a "weapon and light "against all that is grievous or hurtful.
Coincidentally, today is also Fathers day, not a feast of Church certainly but worth noting nonetheless. What a beautiful day to be a father. And the father, like the mother, must help their children gain Godly understanding. A little practical hint: don't "preach". First ask you child what they think about the questions above. Then be ready to give a single sentence or phrase to answer the questions if they need help. Children can learn from a single exposure to a word or sentence. They don't need a sermon.
The news reports of the Hollywood socialite indicate up to her recent incarceration a life of unbridaled materialism: alcohol, drugs, money, sex, etc. The news reports also indicate that when she was sent back to prison, she had a kind of change of mind and heart: reading the Bible, saying on release she will do works of charity. Maybe she learned the lesson of the Prodigal Son and the counsels given by the church fathers: that at times wallow in desolation so that we can appreciate our Fathers House.
This may or may not be a start for a Godly life for this socialite. St. Peter warned: "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first" (s Peter 2:20). In the Parable of the Sower Jesus said:
As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty (Matthew 13: 22-23)
We should all pray this socialite provides for herself a Godly life by providing good soil where the word of God might germinate. If she doesn't, then will mostly like go back to a worldly lifestyle with all its allurements thereby not allowing the Word of God to take root..
One caveat to fathers and mothers. Do not do everything for your children. Make them work at anything they are capable of doing. I grew up as a country boy. I had to do daily house and farm chores as far back as I can remember. In contrast to my experience, I was talking this week to parents who literally were bathing their teenager. I was probably doing work as a 5-6 year old, that some parents would not even allow their late age teens to do.
Parents, doing for a child or teenager what they can do for themselves teaches them helplessness. Teaching children to do all they can do themselves and most importantly to help open their child's mind to see God in all things is the height of smart parenting. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matthew 11:15). Happy Fathers Day!
Manley, J. (Ed.) (1984). The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox. Menlo Park, CA: Monastery Books.
Morelli, G. (2005, September 17). Smart Parenting Part 1. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MorelliParenting.
.Morelli, G. (2006a, February 04). Smart Parenting Part II. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliParenting2.php.
Morelli, G. (2006b, March 25). Smart Parenting III: Developing Emotional Control. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliParenting3.php.
Morelli, G. (2006c, September 24). Smart Parenting IV: Cuss Control. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliParenting4.php.
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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