FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
OUR MISSION OF FAMILY RENEWAL
December 27, 2015
Feast of the Holy Family
The world today is in terrible shape, with the disintegration of the family as one of the greater aspects of concern. The family is God’s design. It is the basic unit of society and of the Church. What happens to families determines what happens to the world.
What is God’s design for families?
First, God brings a man and a woman together in sacramental marriage and makes them a new unity, a profound mystery that reflects the relationship of Christ and his church. They have their God-given roles and relationship. This is a relationship of headship and subordination. “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.” (Col 3:18). Today’s radical feminists, and the western world in general, reject this. They see this as oppression of women, rather than what God intends—great care for wives by their loving husbands. Husbands of course need to understand their role. They are protectors not oppressors. “Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.” (Col 3:19).
Second, God appoints parents to take care of His children, whom He has entrusted to earthly parents (consider how His own Son Jesus was born of a human mother). “For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.” (Sir 3:2). This is how life in the family happens according to God’s way. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.” (Col 3:20). Parents in turn exercise care for their children with patience, tolerance, understanding, forbearance and encouragement. realizing that they have a long way to go. They can bide their time, since they normally would have up to two decades to work on their children. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.” (Col 3:21).
Children, for their own good, are to recognize such authority. “Those who fear the Lord honor their father, and serve their parents as masters.” (Sir 3:7). If children respond accordingly to their parents’ authority and give them the respect that is their due, then great things happen. “In word and deed honor your father, that all blessings may come to you.” (Sir 3:8). What are such blessings?
- “Those who honor their father atone for sins” (Sir 3:3). God values giving honor to parents so much that He equates it with the great grace of repentance, forgiveness and being restored to right relationship with Himself. “Kindness to a father will not be forgotten; it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root.” (Sir 3:14).
- “when they pray they are heard.” (Sir 3:5b). They pray effectively, connecting with God and becoming powerful intercessors.
- “A father’s blessing gives a person firm roots” (Sir 3:9a). They are firmly founded on rock, with God’s ways firmly entrenched in their hearts and minds.
- “they store up riches who respect their mother.” (Sir 3:4). They will be blessed with material provisions on earth, while preparing them for their eternal reward in heaven.
- “Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children” (Sir 3:5a). What they give they get back. What they sow they reap. When they have their own families, they will be blessed accordingly.
- “Those who respect their father will have a long life” (Sir 3:6a).
Third, the home is where children are taught and trained for Christian life outside the home. This was the case with Jesus. “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51a). Jesus was formed in godly virtues in the home. He was prepared in the home for his earthly ministry outside the home. “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Lk 2:52).
The home is a place of love and refuge, is a school of formation, is a base for mission. The home is the basic place where Christian values are taught and caught. The home is the place where everyone, both parents and children, “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12). Just think. One has all those years together in a compact and intimate environment where they continually relate with each other. We can see how what happens in the home can become for good or for bad. To ensure that things turn out well, we need to take on God’s mind.
- We must know God’s ways, which is made known to us in the Bible. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16a). Each member of the family (except the babies) must read the Bible every day, and the family can also do Bible reflection or study together (as in our Liturgical Bible Study). This way they have the tools to help each other grow, “as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another” (Col 3:16b).
- As inevitably we end up hurting each other, we must learn and practice forbearance and forgiveness, “bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another” (Col 3:13a). At times this would be difficult. So we need not to be looking at the wrong done to us, but at the right done by Jesus for us. Indeed, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.” (Col 3:13b).
- The home is the most basic church, and the family is to be a community of worship. Each member of the family prays every day. The family itself looks to communal prayer, whether it is going together to Mass or just having family prayers at home. They do so with joyful and grateful hearts, as they go “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16c).
- Love is the ultimate virtue. God is love, and we are to love God and our neighbor. Our closest neighbors are our family members. “And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Col 3:14).
- We belong to God, we are God’s children, and we are destined for eternal life with Him in heaven. As such, we live for God. We dedicate our whole lives to Him. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17).
What is the effect of all the above? It will be a right relationship with God and with each other. That is the meaning of peace. The world is destroying the family and so it knows no peace but remains in great turmoil. That is not God’s intent for the Christian family. “And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” (Col 3:15a).
Our children are God’s children. We are to care for them as God would care for them. We are to try to discern God’s will for them, and act accordingly. It pains me, for example, to hear of parents who oppose and prevent their children desiring to be priests or nuns, because they have other secular plans for them. This would also be true for those young people who desire to work full-time in ministry rather than pursue a secular career. Jesus’ response to his parents, who were so concerned looking for him, is important. He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49b). Parents, your children are not to live what you want but what God wants.
God has already reserved His outpouring of blessings upon those who seek and do His will. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, and who walk in his ways.” (Ps 127:1).
- God will provide for their needs, and even bring them to prosperity. “What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper.” (Ps 128:2).
- They will have the blessing of children and a vibrant family life. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home, your children like young olive plants around your table.” (Ps 128:3).
- They will have the fondest of memories of a life well lived in the home. “And his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:51b).
“Just so will the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Ps 128:4).
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Note: Go and re-read my book “Families in the Holy Spirit.”