This week we will be doing a “double-double” at St. Monica Parish. We will be baptizing two sets of twins during the 11:30 AM Mass. It seems delightfully providential that we do this on the Feast of the Holy Family. Families are at the center of our belief as Roman Catholics. Allow me to provide three reasons why:
Creating A Future
There is no hope without belief in a future. There is no future without children.
Pope Francis once baptized 32 children. He call this a “chain of faith.” During the Baptism, he said the blessing over the mothers, where they heard the words, “As they see the flame of faith shine in the future of their children.” Marriage gives a spiritual context to a hope-filled future of possibilities. This not only gives a context to Catholic parenting but a mandate as well. Parenting is not only about continuing the human species, it’s also about concretely bringing about the Kingdom here and now.
Why? God has a plan for the world, and thus children are born on purpose – for a purpose. Thus parenting involves creating, raising – and spiritually forming – the children.
Light In A Dark And Confusing World
Let’s go back to the book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. The results of sin were felt in the relationship between man and woman and later between the brothers Cain and Abel. In the book of Genesis, we see it demonstrated where relationships are threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that escalated into hatred, separation and even death.
We are all fallen creatures. We do not always love as we should. But if we own and name our sins, we can also repent of them and find the God can bring good out of dark situations.
A family teaches what it means to be “human.” This is not Pollyanna. Consider the external threats currently facing committed Catholic families:
- Single-parent households,
- The caste system,
- A culture of non-commitment and temporary marriage,
- The encouragement and even encouragement of cohabitation,
- The presumption that the marriage bond is temporary,
- Forms of feminism that are hostile to the church,
- Reformulation of the concept of family,
- Influence of the media in their understanding of marriage and family,
- Trains of thought in the legislature which devalue the idea of permanence and faithfulness in marriage,
- Surrogate motherhood and wombs-for-hire,
- New interpretations of what is considered an actual human right.
Add this to the challenges that people face within their own families.
Contrast this with the example of Saint Joseph. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, was aware and sensitive to the secret will of this voice and knew that the message comes from the depths of one’s heart as well as from on high. In the midst of darkness and confusion, he did not insist on his own will but was able to accept the message – in a bewildering way – that was presented to him. In this way Joseph found who he really was and what his mission was.
Consider the advice that I once heard given to engaged couples during a pre-Cana weekend. One couple mentioned that, certainly, at times they disagree and at times they even can argue. Nevertheless, early in their relationship, they made an agreement that any time there was a serious discussion or they had a disagreement, they would hold each other’s hands. It’s very hard to yell at someone when you’re looking in their eyes and physically touching them. (The husband said that he often felt that he was at a disadvantage because he would often leave the conversation with large, painful, long-nail marks in the palms of his hands).
Social science data shows that stable marriages and families help to overcome poverty and creates hope. This in turn leads to purpose and achievement of each member of the family as well.
A Home For The Wounded Heart
Hope Francis has said that the church needs to become a spiritual “field hospital.” St. Monica needs to become more of a place where Christian families, and “networks-of-families,” are sources of mercy, safety, friendship and support for others who are struggling with the complex issues that challenge families today.
The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus’ healing others. When we encounter people who are hurting, the key is not so much what we do, but to whom we bring them. It is an encounter with the “Divine Physician” that brings healing to fallen humanity.
Understand – this might not mean an initial invitation to Mass or Confession. People are in different stages or thresholds in their spiritual journey. Nevertheless, any conversation with people who are hurting and find themselves in a vulnerable position, gives us the opportunity to offer them this “encounter” with Christ. This event – and you as the instrument and conduit of God’s grace – can give new life, a new horizon, and a decisive direction towards that direct healing encounter with The Lord.
A final closing thought. We should not try and minister to others alone. Christ never did anything by himself. He had 72 disciples, 12 apostles, and three intimate friends. Christian faith is not individualistic, it is deeply communal. Discipleship makes demands on us but these demands are bearable through the bonds of friendship and families.
Audio version of the homily is here:
(Reflections taken from Love is Our Mission – Catechesis for the World Meeting of Families. Book can be purchased here.)