ST. BENEDICT — The family is the focus of many discussions in the culture and in the church. What is a family? How can we serve families? How can we help single parents? How do we form hearts to be open to being a family focused on Christ?
These and many more important question are being explored. They can be answered rather simply with a perspective focused on God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ. When we look to Jesus and the love of his heart, the answers to so many questions about the family and human life are made clear. Perhaps you have heard of the church as being described as a family, the family of God.
The understanding of the church as a family has deep Old Testament roots and is vibrantly clear in the language of the early church addressing each other as brothers and sisters. Understanding the church as a family has some wonderful characteristics that will help answer some of the questions being posed on the family as well. We experience the church as a family in many ways through the week: Holy Mass, adoration, confessions, baptism, weddings, funerals, service to the poor, teaching our young, preparing couples for marriage, etc. The focus then of our family the church is the love of Jesus Christ. Some families revolve around sports, or music, or watching TV, yet this is a great poverty of love. To be a Christian is to have the love of Jesus be the center and focus of our family; this is the joy and dignity of the church.
The church is a family that celebrates the gift of the love and fidelity of God. It is God’s love that gathers us together. It is God’s love that we are given. It is God’s fidelity that strengthens our hope. It is God’s fidelity that forms us in authentic selfless love for others. Jesus’s heart is so “on fire” for love of each of us that there is cause for rejoicing here. Pope Francis has reminded us that we do not need sorry faced Christians. As a family focused on God’s love we can live in a great joy and peace knowing that God is guiding us through the commandments, the sacred scriptures, tradition, and the magisterium into the fullest experience of human life in communion with the love of God and with one another.
As we gather on Sunday to celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord in Holy Mass we are blessed in hearing his Holy Word and then we unite our hearts in prayer and receive the very presence of Our Lord and Savior in the Most Holy Eucharist. There is cause for rejoicing here! Yes, God’s love always includes a call to repentance and conversion; these also to are a cause for rejoicing, as they lead us to Life in Christ. God is loving us into his saints. As Pope Francis asked in his Christmas homily, “Do we let God love us?” And we could expand this question: Do we let God love us into joy? Do we let God love us into redemption? Do we let God love us into conversion and repentance? Do we let God love us into being the love of Jesus for others, starting with our own families?
See what love the Father has for us, that we are called children of God. And so we are, God’s children. If we are God’s children then we are heirs and the subjects of his Fatherly love. Every time Holy Mass is celebrated the lavishing of the graces of salvation for his family, the family of God, are presented and re-presented to us. Maybe the next time you are at Mass you can pray for the grace to come to know and believe and the great love that God has for you and then celebrate that call to conversion and self-giving love as the source of all your joy. We as the church, as God’s called-to-be-holy people, celebrate the love and fidelity of God every day! This may impel to participate in Holy Mass every day.
The writer, a formation director at Mount Angel Seminary, attained a sacred theology bachelor’s degree from the Gregorian University in Rome in 2007. He has served in parishes in western Oregon.