Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors
Family is the “Yes” of God
In a letter that Pope Francis wrote in preparation for the IX World Meeting of Families, which is being held in Dublin, Ireland, this month, he posed two rhetorical questions, writing, “One might ask: does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also: does the family continue to be good news for today’s world?”
Providing an immediate and enthusiastic response to these questions, Pope Francis then wrote, “I am sure the answer is yes!”
He went on to explain that this “yes” is rooted in God’s plan for humanity and for all of creation, writing, “It is God’s ‘yes’ to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases, it is God’s ‘yes’ and His commitment to humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love. The family, therefore, is the ‘yes’ of God as Love.”
What a beautiful image of the family as being representative of God’s love for the world. It is within families that God intends for us to learn the ways of compassion towards others. Growing up in a loving family teaches young people how to be considerate of the needs of those around them. Loving families teach us how to laugh together, how to gather in community, the need for forgiveness and for seeking reconciliation, and how to pick each other up when we fall.
In his letter, Francis writes, “How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’” This way of compassion that Francis talks about will not come about within families automatically. It is something that must be cultivated, and we should come to understand our faith as Catholics as a powerful resource in building up family life.
When we practice our faith together, it strengthens bonds and prepares us to weather difficult trials. Most importantly, our faith can teach us how to forgive, which is an essential element in building up strong families. The faith not only provides the model for right action in our lives, but it gives guidance for how to react to failure.
Christ said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). This is not to say that we abandon our concept of right and wrong, but sometimes we need to lead with mercy in order to affect a change of heart in others. Sometimes it is enough to know that others know where we stand and then to simply show them our merciful side.
Mercy is the most powerful element of our faith and it can keep families together even during periods when someone loses their way. What a profound tool for cultivating compassion for one another within the family—and what a profound witness this is to the world!
Christ said, “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” In giving witness to Christ’s love, the family truly is good news for today’s world.
The surest way to affect positive change in today’s society is by cultivating faithful families full of love for one another. In this way, the family embodies the joy of the Gospel, and becomes, as Francis says, “the ‘yes’ of God as Love.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org