At a meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Family Pope Francis, once again, spoke strongly about the importance of the family within the greater society. The Catholic view of family is widely and well known, and because of this; attacked strongly. Groups who are trying to change the ‘make-up’ of the family have accused us of being everything from out of touch and restrictive to homophobic and hateful of freedoms. To discuss this at a Vesper service would both take too much time and just be plain a waste of time since this group is a strong supporter of the Catholic sensibility of family – we all trust in God who defined what a family should be.
No, I won’t try to reinforce in us that which is already strongly ingrained – praised be to God. However, what caught my eye and heart in this reflection of the Holy Father was this line: ‘A society that neglects children and marginalizes the elderly severs its roots and darkens its future.’ He goes on to say that caring for these groups is a choice for civilization. This is a common theme in the first eight months of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Brothers and sisters what is a choice for civilization starts as a choice within a family. How do we, catholic families, regard our youngest and oldest? Do we give the time to play, to teach, to love the children of our family, and by doing so show them their importance in the ongoing building of the family? Theirs is the future, the strength that will continue this most fundamental building block of society. Do we embrace and include the elderly of our families in its activity? Theirs is the past, the memory of what made the family what it is and who we are. They have the wisdom of a life of lived in loving sacrifice that teaches the rest of us what it means to live a full life of love of God and neighbor while living in the society around them. Both groups are important for us as families to be living witnesses to the Holy Family’s example.
On this great Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph we do well to desire what the Collect (opening prayer) from today’s Mass prays for:
‘O God, who were pleased to give us
the shining example of the Holy Family,
graciously grant that we may imitate them
in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity,
and so, in the joy of your house,
delight one day in eternal rewards.’
Eternal rewards. Eternity starts right now, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI points out in his book Jesus of Nazareth Volume 1 – echoing the Jewish understanding of eternity. The rewards start now if we live this prayer within our families, the whole family from our most young to our oldest; the whole family from those closest to us in our immediate family to those in our Catholic family and beyond. When we do this, people will notice the love we have within these families; and when they take notice the other alternatives being promoted in society concerning family will shine at them with a cold, glaring, harsh light – and they will turn to the warm glow of our choices.
To you all, those here at this Sunday Vesper Service (and those reading this online); may your Christmas celebrations continue in the warmth of the Holy Family’s loving embrace – Merry Christmas.