Tuesday, June 2, 2009

5-13-2007: 6th Easter (C)

Acts of the Apostles 15:1-2,22-29/Psalm 67/Revelation 21:10-14,22-23/John 14:23-29
This Sunday we celebrate Mothers’ Day. One would think it might be difficult to find a culture, community, or church that didn’t honor motherhood. But, as a matter of fact, our church and culture tend to honor only acceptable examples of motherhood. Those not measuring up to the criteria set by religion and society -- we openly disdain or secretly brush under the carpet.

At a conference on Open Adoption a few years back, adoption reformers came together from across the country to celebrate the fact that it had been twenty years since Open Adoption became a viable option in this country, placing children with adopting families who seek to maintain relationships with their children’s families of origin, especially with the women who gave them birth. Certain social workers and religious bureaucrats gasp in horror at revealing what they think are dark and dirty secrets. But children of open adoption have only benefited by the truth and honesty inherent in the practice. After all, many of us now belong to non-adoptive blended families where there are often more than one set of parents involved in a child’s life. Don’t get me wrong: Open Adoption doesn’t mean that birth parents parent the child -- the adoptive parents are the only parenting parents. But the adopted person grows up knowing where he came from and the names of those who gave him birth. If all work hard for the best interests of the child (not a bad definition of parenthood by the way), the adopted person can have a relationship not only with his birth parents but their other children (i.e. his siblings) as well -- and with grandparents and extended family too.

At that Open Adoption conference I had the privilege of meeting Jennifer Huntsberry. Jenny told me she first became pregnant at 13 years old. She knew she could not parent her baby, but with uncommon tenacity would not surrender her son Aaron into the secret world of closed adoption. Through Open Adoption Jenny chose the family with which her son was placed. Jenny and Aaron have maintained a close relationship through these years, seeing each other and their respective families on a regular basis. Aaron knows Jenny is not his parent -- he has two wonderful parents who have given him and his two adopted siblings much love and a good home. But through Open Adoption Aaron can know Jenny and her husband Chris, as well as their three other children who, of course, are Aaron’s half-siblings. Lest you think I’m telling stories out of class, I’m not. Jenny and Aaron’s story, as well as the stories of 23 other people touched by adoption (yours truly included), are available to all in a beautiful book called Sacred Connections by Mary Ann Koenig and published by Running Press (2001).

It’s time our culture and church own up to the platitudes often spouted on the sacred character of motherhood – which, if indeed it is sacred, remains so no matter how it came to pass. Aaron told me he’d be remembering both his moms on Mothers’ Day. Some say that’s terrible – you shouldn’t share your affection like that. But thanks to the Open Adoption movement Aaron, at only 14, discovered the wisdom many of us seldom learn: that love is never diminished by our loving – its demand welcome, its supply limitless.

As we left the conference Aaron said to me: You know, Father Tom, I’m not really a religious person -- but I thank God for Jenny. And thank God, too, for all those who have struggled so long to make all those nasty secrets and lies, inevitable in the practice of closed adoption, a thing of the past.

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