The family: a reflection of the infinite love of the father

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Friday, March 11, 2022

By Marie Mischel

Intermountain Catholic

(Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on the theology of the family in preparation for the 10th World Meeting of Families, which will take place June 24-26. The World Meeting will be held in Rome; Bishop Oscar A. Solis asked the parishes of the Diocese of Salt Lake City to organize activities to raise awareness of the importance of the vocation of marriage and family life.)

Contemplating the family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph may seem like a strange exercise in prayer. After all, the Bible tells us almost nothing about the years between birth in Bethlehem and baptism in the Jordan. We have only one story about this time: St. Luke’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus was 12 years old, his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, and when they returned , they “sought him among their relatives and acquaintances”.

Not finding their son, Mary and Joseph retraced their steps and after three days found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem. About the following years in Nazareth, Saint Luke tells us: “Jesus grew in wisdom, in age and in favor before God and before men.

From this and other details of the Gospel, we gain an understanding of the Holy Family that allows us to develop a model to follow.

“By observing the family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, each family can rediscover its own calling, and can begin to understand itself a little better, to orient itself on the path of life and to feel drawn to the joy of life. ‘Gospel’, declares ‘Nazareth: Making love normal’, the third in the cycle of catecheses of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in preparation for the X World Meeting of Families.

“It is important not to forget that the Son of God, who became man, lived for many years within a normal and humble human family”, continues the catechesis. “It is precisely in humble and normal realities that the Lord aspires to integrate and establish himself.”

Our family teaches us our first lessons about love, about values, about relationships with others. In the home “one learns endurance and the joy of work, brotherly love, generous, even repeated forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life”, specifies the Catechism of the Church. Catholic.

A Christian family is also called to educate its children “to full human and Christian maturity,” notes Pope John Paul II in his 1981 apostolic exhortation. Familiaris Consortio (On ​​the role of the Christian family in the modern world).

“In fact, as an educational community, the family must help man to discern his own vocation and to accept responsibility in the search for greater justice, educating him from the beginning in interpersonal relationships rich in justice and love,” he added.

Yet “no perfectly formed family descends from heaven,” Pope Francis acknowledges in his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation. Amoris Lætitia (On love and family).

For families, growing constantly in the capacity to love “is an endless vocation born of the full communion of the Trinity, of the profound unity between Christ and his Church, of the community of love that is Holy Family of Nazareth, and of the pure fraternity existing among the saints in heaven,” the pope continues. This growth allows us to “stop demanding from our interpersonal relationships a perfection, a purity of intentions and a consistency that we will find only in the Kingdom to come. It also prevents us from harshly judging those who live in situations of fragility.

Pope Francis urges everyone to “keep reaching for something greater than ourselves and our families. …Let’s take this trip as a family, let’s keep walking together.

Contemplating “the alliance of love and fidelity lived by the Holy Family of Nazareth” allows families “to better face the vicissitudes of life and history”, Amoris Laetitia States. “On this basis, each family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world.”

All families face challenges, even the Holy Family, Pope Francis said in his December 27, 2021 Angelus address.

Referring to the incident where 12-year-old Jesus stayed in Jerusalem, Pope Francis pointed out that Mary and Joseph did not understand their son’s response when he told them he had to be in his Father’s house.

“They need time to get to know their son,” he said. “It’s like that with us too: every day, a family needs to learn to listen to each other in order to understand each other, to walk together, to face conflicts and difficulties.”

All members of a family have a responsibility to help build family fellowship, Amoris Laetitia but this requires “a prompt and generous openness of each to understanding, to patience, to forgiveness, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and sometimes mortally wound its own communion: from this arise the many and varied forms of division in family life.

To receive the grace to overcome divisions, family members must regularly participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, Amoris Laetitia States.

Although the common definition of family limits relationships to those of blood, Christ himself taught that “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, my sister, and my mother” (Matthew 12:50). He also made it clear that those who are hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, are his brothers and sisters when he said, “As long as you have done it for one of these least of my brethren you have done for me” (Matthew 25:40).

As Catholics, the unconditional love offered by Jesus as our brother and God as our father is a model we are called to emulate in our own families and communities. “When a family welcomes and reaches out to others, especially the poor and the abandoned, it is ‘a symbol, a witness and a participant in the motherhood of the Church,'” says Amoris Laetitiaciting John Paul II’s 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortium.

“Social love, as a reflection of the Trinity, is what truly unifies the spiritual meaning of the family and its mission to others, because it makes the kerygma present in all its communal imperatives. Amoris Laetitia keep on going. “The family lives its spirituality precisely by being both a domestic Church and a vital cell for transforming the world.

Reflection Questions

1. Who are my family members?

2. What special gifts does each member bring to the family?

3. How can we help each other as a family?

4. How do we deal with conflicts within the family?

5. How does my family extend fellowship in the community?

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