“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light.”  —Mt 6:22

My mother was a great observer when it came to solving which child was naughty. She would say, “Look me in the eye and tell me what happened.”  I could never get away with anything, even as an adult. I also learned that it was easier to tell the truth than to attempt to perpetuate a lie.

I find looking into the eyes of children easier than looking into the eyes of strangers; perhaps because there is a fear of what the other person might discover about me as they look back.

In the eyes of children, there is an innocence and trust, until it is broken or taken.  Our faith teaches us to have a moral compass, a moral conscience, where we do good and avoid evil: “The education of the conscience is a lifelong task,” notes the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law.”

As parents — and a faith community invested in teaching our children —  we might try to rely on our own experiences to guide us when fostering both justice and mercy in our children.  We might attempt to share stories of our youth, when we were hurt by friends, picked on for what we wore or could not afford.  We might have been the ones to do the hurting, choosing to fit in with the popular or cool kids, as the temptation to do evil was wrapped up in a well disguised package. We may continue to find these same temptations, disguised differently to lure us into keeping up with our neighbors or trying to help our children by being their “friends” and not following up on the ground rules we set to guide them.  Our children witness our actions and model what they see. What exactly are we doing to set the example?

Our children experience far greater temptations and dangers than ever before that can prey upon them at school, at home, at soccer or dance. The battle is real. It began with Adam and Eve and continues today. Our faith, the truth of God’s love, is our saving grace.

“Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”  —Mk 10:15

Take the time to look into the eyes of your children every day. Talk about the day and listen. What is God trying to tell you at this moment in this conversation?

Choose a time to sit together and look at each other, maybe over a meal. Our children deserve our time, love and closeness.  Turn off all distracting media. We all deserve this focused attention, this relationship with one another as God is present during these times too.

Practice forgiveness and how to reconcile with one another. Model the behavior you hope to instill in your children. It is not always easy, and you can always turn to God for guidance to help you find the words to say, “Please forgive me for______. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” This carries more weight than just saying, “I’m sorry.”

We are called to be in communion that begins at home. Parents are the first teachers of their children. God, our Father, desires this for us, His children.  We can support one another, beginning at home, and bring this into the larger community. Together we can make a difference for both our children and one another as we grow in our faith.

Act justly, love kindness, walk humbly with God.’ —Mi 6:6-8

—Terri McCormack is marriage and family life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Published in the January 15-21, 2022, edition of the Inland See and in the Winter 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.