Every foster parent knows the pain: You take into your home an infant whose own parents cannot care for him or her. In the weeks and months that the child is with you, you cannot help but fall in love with the child; you bond with the little boy or girl. But the day comes when the child will move on to a permanent home. Every foster parent knows that moment will come from the moment the child comes into their home – and hearts. But that does not ease the pain when the time comes to say goodbye. There are tears and grief that lasts for days and weeks.
But foster parents will do it again. They will welcome another child into their family and then another, fully aware that it will end in another painful parting.
A long-time foster parent, herself the mother of five children, writes:
“Some people ask why I became a foster parent if it causes me so much pain? Why would anyone invite this type of anguish into his or her life? And why will I do it again? But I see these emotions – pain, suffering, wondrous joy – as evidence that God has called me as a Catholic, a Christian and, most of all, as a mother. When I was given the gift of motherhood, I received with it the grace necessary to understand that being a mother requires me not only to teach and serve, but also to let go and suffer loss. Why, then, should I confine these graces to raising my five birth children? I am called to serve all God’s children. I am called to be also a mother to the motherless.”
How does a foster parent give away a child to a new mom and dad after caring for them so long?
“The answer is simple,” this foster mom believes. “[The child] was never mine to begin with – not because she was a foster child but because she, like my own child, is God’s child. She ultimately belongs to God.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to embrace the generous spirit of this foster parent: to seek first and always to bring the love of God into every life we can, to work first and always to transform our homes and communities in the reconciliation and peace of God, to find meaning and joy first and always in the joy and fulfilment of others. Not everyone is called to be a foster parent, this foster mom writes, “but one way or another, we are all called to serve. And when we answer God’s call – and by doing so we enter into the very heart of Christ – we are filled with the grace necessary to rely on our faith to carry us through, not away, from life’s challenges. But if we remain idle, fearful of the emotional pain attached to entering the emotional struggles of the world, we will not fulfil God’s call and we will undoubtedly feel an emptiness that is insatiable by any other means.” May we find our own response to God’s call to be mirrors of his love, ministers of his forgiveness, and vehicles of his healing – despite the hurt we will endure, the cloak we will give away, and the extra mile we will walk.