Jesus Christ and the Vocation of the Human Person
The Valentine’s Day blog took up the topic of small acts of love that are integral to happy family life. The reason they are so important is that they foster growth in love, preparing us for those greater acts of self-sacrifice that are needed when a family faces difficult circumstances such as a serious illness or other crisis situation.
Love is the vocation of the Christian and one way we speak about the Christian family is as a “school of love,” or more specifically, a place to learn that love which imitates the love of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. Marriage was raised to a sacrament because the fruit of married love is the sharing in the life and love of Jesus, who himself was born and raised in a family.
In October, there will be a synod in Rome on “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” In preparation for this meeting, the Church throughout the world has been asked to reflect on a variety of questions, including asking people to consider how family is a “privileged place in which Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person.”
Here in our local Church, one of our respondents to this question made the link between love and family life, writing, “It is in the context of family life that spouses and children learn to love through self-giving and learn the meaning of sacrifice in imitation of the sacrificial love of Christ.” Building on this foundation we can also recognize that it is in the family that we also learn how to live together, as a community.
As Blessed Pope John Paul II, explains, “the family must go back to the ‘beginning’ of God’s creative act if it is to attain self-knowledge and self-realization in accordance with the inner truth not only of what it is, but also of what it does in history. And since in God’s plan it has been established as an ‘intimate community of life and love,’ the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God. Looking at it in such a way as to reach its very roots, we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence, the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride” (Familiaris consortio, 17)(emphasis added).
Because we live in a time in which family life is under much stress, it is all the more important for families to be witnesses to God’s plan for them. To be credible witnesses of Jesus’ love means to welcome Jesus into our everyday lives. Families can do this by beginning and ending the day in prayer. Families especially draw closer to Christ by faithfully and joyfully attending Mass and receiving our Lord in the Eucharist. Parents provide an invaluable lesson when their children see them going to Confession, humbly seeking God’s love and mercy.
In all of these actions, parents share their faith and help their children to grow more fully in an awareness of the importance of faith and how we express it in acts of love for one another. This basic, human and Christian formation is at the same time, in its own way, a form of evangelization – passing on the encounter with Christ.
To love means to give of oneself, so families are also called to serve together in caring for those in need in our extended families and in our communities through parish outreach ministries and community service. Vibrant faith-filled families help build vibrant parishes. Our Church needs the witness of all of our families to be the best Church that we can be.