I am pleased to be able to share some personal reflections in regard to marriage and family as part of the January 2016 edition of the Catholic East Texas. As I ponder these central elements of our human journey, my thoughts move from my own personal experience of family to some of the beautiful teachings that our Catholic tradition offers us.
Although we must acknowledge that the institutions of marriage and family are threatened in our modern era, it is my hope that as believers we can truly celebrate marriage and family and all the goodness they bring to our world. As our bodies are composed of a myriad of cells with diverse functions and purposes, the Body of Christ is composed of a similarly diverse community of “cells” which are the family. To take the analogy a step further, every marriage between a man and a woman committed to each other for life is the nucleus of a “cell” that is the family.
It is essential that we hold on to this ideal image of family. The basic model of family is the union of a man and a woman for life surrounded by children. Because the variations on this model are countless, we are often tempted to ignore the fact that this basic definition of family is the model that God our creator offers us. Too often in modern society when we hold up this model of family we are accused of being judgmental, uncaring or bigoted. It is essential that we embrace every individual and whatever family they are a part of with great compassion. It is a great challenge for us to keep all of this in balance because there are so many complex elements that enter into how an individual family is composed. There are many variations from the above model of family that create great challenges and are not by anyone’s choice, but we must also acknowledge that many times our personal choices impact our family in significant ways. Often in numerous ways every family fails to be a model of the ideal. This should not cause us to ignore the ideal but guide us to compassionately embrace every family, however fragmented.
During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Francis spoke of the family as “God’s masterpiece.” I encourage us all to embrace this image and glean from it the joy and hope that our loving God wants to share with every family. Just as in the world of art there are many variations on how a masterpiece is expressed, the same is true for the family. Seeing the family as God’s masterpiece reminds us that God is an essential member of each family. Every member of every family is a sinner and in need of God’s masterful work of mercy in their lives. God, the master artisan, is at work on each of us offering His mercy, His love and His life.
The ideal of family is God’s masterpiece, but we acknowledge that each of our individual families is an unfinished masterpiece. The call of our Catholic faith is individually and within our families to cooperate with the master artisan as He transforms us in His image. The Year of Mercy is an ideal time for each of us to reflect on how we can be models of mercy in our own family and the wider family of God’s people. Ultimately the family itself is a beautiful expression of God’s love, mercy and compassion for every human person. He knows that we need family as a place to grow and develop and become more and more fully His children. May we continue to journey in the Lord as we seek to gather one day at the family table that is His heavenly banquet.
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