“God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.”
God shows us that we need family to learn to love and to have and raise children. God gave Jesus a mother, Mary, and an adopted father, Joseph. And God gave Jesus a family tree with cousins and aunts and uncles. In some places in the Gospels we hear of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. However, that language is an accident of translation. There is no vocabulary in Hebrew for brothers and sisters of a nuclear family. In fact, the word for first cousins and brothers and sisters is the same word. It is quite likely that in Nazareth Jesus lived within a home of an extended family of cousins. Jesus was shaped in a robust human family.
The family is perhaps the most important of all human institutions. God gave us the Holy Family as an example to us of true family: Father, mother and children. This is God’s plan for human love and for raising up children to Himself. Throughout Sacred Scripture we see the sacred plan of family. We see how men and women are to love one another, and children are loved and taught to love, in the family. In fact, it is hard to imagine a better setting for learning love and forming children that is better than family.
Those of you who know me know that I am a widower. My wife and I had six children. Our family life was rich and full of memories that I see still shaping my grown children and their families. I learned a valuable lesson, that two perfectly sane and healthy adults are only capable of raising 1.4 children. After that, the children help raise each other. Our six kids each had seven parents.
God gave us the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. God did not give us “Free love” or “Union Libre”. This is an aberration. It is sinful because there is no commitment here; and it is not “free”. “Free love” is a lie, and leads to human misery, with very high rates of poverty and misery for women and children in these relationships. We are all called to be faithful, committed lovers, in committed relationship with one another, not independent, selfish rebels.
Families need good habits and good family traditions. One of these is to always attend Mass, together if possible. Families should go to Holy Communion together. Parents show their children the humility and importance of frequent Confession. Families should pray together. This is how the family becomes the first church each of us will come to know, a “domestic church”. This is where we will learn to be faithful, good citizens, and learn the values we need to be good citizens.
Without strong families, there will be chaos in our lives and in our communities. Without faith practiced in families there would be no Church. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple just days after his birth, and prior to returning to Nazareth. Together they gave thanks to God for the gift of Jesus, and sought God’s blessings.
Let us consider the Holy Family as a model for all families and all married couples. St. Paul tells us,
“Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
This is how to cooperate to make marriage and family work. It is not about domination of women. We learn the art of compromise in the family. St. Paul then says,
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Husbands and wives serve one another.
And he tells children,
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers all too often are too rough on their spouses and children. St. Paul teaches that fathers are not to abuse their children, but to nurture them carefully, attentively, and lovingly when he says,
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.” (Col 3:18-21)
God cares for families and teaches us how to be successful in family life. Making family work is work. It is Christian work for the good of spouses, for the good of children and for the Church and our communities.
God abundantly blesses and encourages families.
May God bless you and your family.