The Mission of The Catholic Family
The Sunday in the Octave of Christmas is always the Solemnity of the Holy Family. It is when we celebrate Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family, right up to Our Lord’s death and resurrection.
In our society today, the Holy Family has a unique significance that if we do not understand it, may be used in political circles in ways that God never intended. So it is important to look at what the message of the Holy Family stands is.
We know in our faith, we see first, that this holy family defines the family itself as father, mother and child. Outside our church there are those who define the family differently and for various reasons. In the Church we do not define the family in any other way. The reason goes far beyond resisting any political attempts to redefine the family.
Jesus was born to Mary and to Joseph and their collective mission is the salvation of souls. Therefore, we miss the whole point of the Holy Family and even our own Catholic families if we see them outside that mission.
Putting it simply, Catholics in all our vocations have a call to live differently than the standards and ideas of the society around us, wherever we may be, because we at baptism are called to be lights to the world and in order to do that, we must walk the narrow road. We can never compromise on those parts of our vocation because by our baptism we have a vocation to be lights who point to Christ, that is our mission. We may disagree with those who define families differently, but that means nothing if we do not first understand the mission that each of us has in and out of the family which is to be a light to the world, salt of the Earth.
St. Paul describes the family in today’s second reading and again political forces disagree so this simple passage in the Bible has one of the most controversial lines for our times. ‘Wives be submissive to your husbands.” It is so controversial that the Church also gives me the option to remove that part of the reading for today. I chose not to, because again that runs the risk of turning it into a political message.
The message of wives be submissive to your husbands, means nothing without a full understanding that St. Paul is calling for a community built in mutual love and charity that involves each one doing what is best for the other. We can look at those words today and recognize the power of the women in the life of the family in the Church. That will be a major focus this year for it is focus of the Gospel of Luke.
When I have done quinciñieras I usually have the caballeros (ushers) one side of the church and damas (maids) on the other side and I always ask who is stronger the man or the woman. I usually get various answers usually along the lines of the man. Then I ask: “Why did the devil tempt the woman first?” That always gets them thinking differently. Then I turn to the caballeros who are usually teen males around 15-17 and I ask them if they want to quit school and their girlfriends encourage them to stay in school, are they going to quit school? Every time the boys have said no. I explain to the girls that this indicates the power they have.
Wives be submissive to their husbands is not about making woman second class citizens, it is to help them understand the power they have in their families and by the way in the Church, for it also calls for men to mutually love their wives to respect and understand that power. However, there is another message in there no one ever mentions.
I am sure every parent here can recite to me the fourth commandment, but did you notice that St. Paul says Fathers do not nag your children, lest they lose heart? Do you know that also applies to all authority including teachers?
What the Church is teaching us as well is that the whole point of the family is to be a crucible of the forging of the virtue of love and charity in the hearts of all its members. The Catholic family is one that is called to become a domestic Church that is filled with the love of God and neighbor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the family is where all are called to learn how to love and to serve God and each other in charity through the realities that are the family. Remember, the core of the family is the sacrament of marriage which is not only a sacrament, but it is also a vocation.
This is the mission of the family. it is so powerful a mission that the Church also teaches that the power and integrity of the family must be held so sacred that it must be free from the interference of the state, except in the most extreme circumstances.
The family has a calling to learn and to teach love and charity so that each member of the family may, by their lives, individually and collectively be a path of salvation to all others in the community through love and charity. This also defines the mission of the Holy Family.
Therefore, it is the place where people learn loving charity and reflect it to each other and to the world around them. It is also where they learn not only justice and charity, but the wisdom and strength to challenge injustice and lack of charity which is what Jesus did throughout His ministry.
That charity is empowered not when everything goes right in the family but when things go wrong. When external circumstances put pressure on the mission of the family. That can mean anything from financial stress from changes in society to internal stress from illness or expected circumstances. It is here that love is learned and celebrated.
None of this is possible unless the family prays together, worships together and seeks to live in holiness together. Holiness is not kneeling for prayer twelve hours a day, it is living in awareness of God’s omnipresent love, like a fish is aware of the omnipresent water, whether that family gathers for dinner at night, goes to Disney world or stands around the hospital bed of one of its members.
Therefore, like the holy family, we can see the mission of every family is to create an environment that builds charity in every member. The Church also teaches that this charity is important that we cannot build a just society without charity. For justice without charity easily turns into a tyranny. If you have a chance read the book The New Jim Crow which highlights the tragedy along racial lines of a nation lost in justice without charity and discuss it in your family gathering.
The mission of the holy family is all about building the skills of love and charity for the mission of salvation of souls each family is called to the same mission in holiness and love and to a light to each other and to the world around them.