“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you…” Ex 20:1-17

Praying the daily readings can be dangerous. Take yesterday, the Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne. As usual, I sat down at my computer and read the Old Testament passage, the psalm and the gospel of the day. I was not particularly moved by any of them. A blah feeling tainted my prayer time, until Paul and I started sharing about them.

What came back strongly then was a familiar anger with the fourth commandment. Honor your father and your mother… The rage of my youth returned, revealing a wound that has not healed yet.

When I was twelve or thirteen, I could not see how I could ‘respect’ my parents (I had changed ‘respect’ for ‘honor’, and still do). My mother had left us for a lover, had had several lovers as a matter of fact, had returned, and my father had never raised his voice or said a reproach. He had not stood for himself, or for us his children, as a matter of fact. Where was the honor in all this?

Yesterday, the grandmother that I am was hit in the face by the old anger. I was simultaneously a girl of twelve and a woman of sixty-six. The woman of today could only think. “O my, am I still there?”

I know that all the parts that make me grow at varying speeds. The physical me is much older than the emotional me. The spiritual me still has much growth to do, while the psychological me is shriveling in part.

A deeper part still would like to reconcile the girl and the older woman. How can the older woman explain to the girl how parents are not always what they seem to be, that so many factors contributed to the character of her parents. Maybe her father was a saint to suffer his wife’s behavior in silence, when he obviously was not happy with her. Surely her mother had psychological problems that led her to behave in such erratic manner.

My father died more than fifty years ago and my mother passed away twenty years back. I still have an uneasy relationship with my mother, even though at times I am able to tap on the pathos in her life. I wish I could talk with my father about ‘things.’ We so rarely talked together.

Yesterday’s reading has brought back to the surface of my life this ‘unfinished business’ on which I will be working in the coming days and weeks. I am left still with the question of ‘Honoring one’s father and mother’ when they are not ‘honorable’ — when they abuse physically or psychologically their children, when they abandon them… What is to honor then?

Another unexplored part of me, however, is longing to ‘honor my father and mother’, to honor them and love them as they both deserved. This may be this last path which I need to follow.

Art: Pegeen Vail Guggeheim, Sans Titre (1957) figurationfeminine.blogspot.com

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