A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Family

Fr Bernard Carney sm

Fr Bernard Carney sm

The recent synod in Rome has said much about the family. The principal feast of the month of December is centred  on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The scene is traditionally depicted with the holy family in poor circumstances. There are sharp contrasts involved. The God of heaven and earth steps into time and history. Jesus, the son of Mary is born amongst us. The Word becomes flesh.

To greet this momentous event there are only a few shepherds and some animals. There is a deep mystery surrounding the father of the child Jesus.

Things are messy and far from ideal. Where is the splendour and the trumpets to announce this great miracle? Where are the important people to welcome his coming on earth?

If expectations are not met and the ideal of the holy family is reduced to living in a simple building at the back of an inn, does that not reflect on the circumstances of many families in today’s world?

There is the ideal and there is reality. The sadness of divided refugee families fleeing into Europe in our own day is just one of the more dramatic pressures families are subject to.  Other realities are families without the sanction of religious or even civil marriage to care for the rights of women and children. Families that are split by addiction, abuse and violence.

In the midst of all this there are families who do hold within their midst the ideal of the  ‘domestic church.’ Love and mercy is their watchword. Forgivness and reconciliation is the coin they deal in. The result is their ability to reach out and give life to not just their immediate children, but others who have not received care, respect and affection.

The message from the crib where the child Jesus came amongst us is, that love has the ability to transform any human adversity.

In a recent address to the people in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made some pertinent observations on the family. “A family that closes up on itself is a contradiction, a mortification of a promise that brought it to life.” *  It is at the very heart of the meaning of family to spread goodness to all its members and beyond to all humanity.

Further on Pope Francis says “Being faithful to promises is a true work of art by humanity.” * It is only by the grace of God that the family can permeate to the heart of society. This is the lesson we learn on our knees before the Christmas crib.

*VIS 21 October 2015

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