Family life an opportunity to embrace joy

By Karla Luke
The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born “of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life”. [Evangelii Gaudium 60]
The above passage speaks directly to some of the proceedings at the third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. The theme of the Synod, “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization” recognizes the urgent need of the church to address the social and spiritual concerns of the family today. In paragraph 66 of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis called the family the fundamental cell of society. Our families are the places where we learn about ourselves, our faith and how to relate to each other as human beings with human dignity.
The family dynamic is rich with spiritual symbolism. The love that unites the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is likened to the love that unites father, mother and child. God consecrated this holy union by allowing His only Son to be born to Joseph and Mary, establishing the “domestic church.” (CCC, 1655). It is our primary family relationships that form the basis for how we will relate to others as our personal world begins to grow.
Strong families build strong societies and faithful followers build strong churches; therefore, it is incumbent upon us as a Catholic Christian family to insure the future of our church by thoughtfully resolving the issues that families face today. Our bishops attended the Synod in an attempt to address these issues. What can we do to help?
Live the Gospel – These words are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Remember that each encounter with another person is an opportunity to encounter Christ. Just as we show members of our families how much we love them, we must also be aware of those who have broken families or no families at all.
Be merciful and forgiving – Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32). We must be tolerant and forgiving of grievances against ourselves and demonstrate forgiveness to our human brothers and sisters.
Pray and faithfully go forth in joy – We must accept God’s challenge to go forth and make disciples of all nations. We stand firmly on the shoulders of the great prophets and saints who have lovingly made a path for us. We pray for peace and justice for all of creation
The human family, is a visible, earthly expression of God’s own intense love for us. It is where we learn our Gospel values of love, mercy, and forgiveness or in the absence of family, we fail to learn them. We are obliged to continue to build up and strengthen our families as one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind.
(Karla Luke is the coordinator of operations and support services for the Office of Catholic Education in the Jackson diocese. She will continue this series on the Joy of the Gospel on in future editions of Mississippi Catholic.)