Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family

At Mass this weekend, we hear one of the most beautiful of the Gospel stories – Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-42). To the first listeners of this story, it sounded shocking, maybe even unbelievable:  Jesus talking to a woman who is not of his own people.  Jesus knowing all about her though never having met her before.  And Jesus being more concerned for what her life could look like going forward than what it has been in the past, which was how others in the community judged her.

What listeners in every age come to understand is that Jesus’ love for each of us is greater than we can imagine and that there is nothing about our lives that cannot be changed with our Lord’s love and mercy.  Thus, this Gospel is the perfect backdrop for the release at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle of the Archdiocese of Washington’s pastoral plan to more fully implement Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

The Holy Father’s magisterial teaching focuses on the centrality of God’s infinite love – which became Incarnate in a human family – and the vocation of the human family to reveal that love.  With that understanding, the pastoral plan considers in detail the challenges that families encounter today because of a highly secularized cultural environment, which presents many barriers to encountering Christ and appropriating the Church’s teaching.  So many people think that if their own lives look more like the woman at the well than the Holy Family that there may not be a place in the Church for them. That is simply not true.

Amoris Laetitia is a call to compassionate accompaniment in helping all to experience Christ’s love and mercy. Neither this exhortation nor this pastoral plan presents a list of answers to each individual human concern. Rather, both call for a pastoral approach for many people – married, single and divorced – who are struggling to face issues in life, the teaching of the Church and their own desire to reconcile all of this.

Pope Francis notes in Amoris Laetitia that the Church is a family of families, and the home of pastoral accompaniment is the parish. The parish has a central role in making clear the Gospel vision for marriage and family life.

Our parishes, as the sites where people most experience the life of the Church, must be places of welcome where everyone is invited, particularly anyone who might be disillusioned or disaffected by contemporary society or even by our faith community. This plan will help our parishes to better do that by offering a wide variety of resources and suggestions on how to implement the ministry of accompaniment at the parish level.