Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The family mission

The Son of God whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas day was born into a family in Nazareth, the greatest Gift of God to uplift sinful humanity.  God Himself chose to come into the world in a human family which He himself formed.  The family itself introduces fraternity into the world, through the example of the parents aware of their responsibility to educate their children in finding their own lives to lead.  “An intelligent son listens to his father’s advice, but a mocker listens to no correction” (Prov. 13:1).

As Pope Francis writes in his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Amoris Laetitia’, article 18: The Gospel reminds us that children are not the property of a family, but have their own lives to lead.  Jesus is a model of obedience to his earthly parents, placing himself under their charge (cf. Lk. 2:51), but He also shows that children’s life decisions and their Christian vocation may demand a parting for the sake of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 10:34-37).  His statement: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk. 8:21) shows the need for other deeper bonds even within the family.  At twelve years of age, Jesus tells Mary and Joseph that he has a greater mission to accomplish apart from his earthly family: “Why were you looking for me?  Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2: 49).

May Jesus’ birth awaken us to the role and mission of the family in bringing up children in the faith.  One of the Psalms celebrates the proclamation of faith within families: “All that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought…that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them totheir children” (Ps. 78:3-6).  The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The search adventure

Life is a constant seeking for answers to quests, questions and uncertainties, particularly in relation to the Great Beyond, or to the God of the Universe.  Questions have frequently lured the youthful mind on the state of suffering in the world, and why a caring God seemingly does not care about the plight of the poor or why innocent persons become victims of violence and injustice.  This points to one’s knowledge of the nature of God or one’s ignorance of God’s Being, perhaps even asking why the Son of God was born poor and daringly faced the death penalty for a crime He did not commit. Ergo, the search for the truth
The answers are best found in history: God present in historical revelation and processes, as far back as the Bible stories.  “God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history,” Pope Francis said in an interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro,S.J., in La Civilta Cattolica. The pope added that “A contemplative attitude is necessary…profound peace, spiritual consolation, love of God and love of all things in God.”  The renowned English theologian, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) was an Anglican priest who was converted and accepted into full communion with Catholicism in 1845 after his studies of the Scripture and the historical writings by the Church Fathers convinced him that the Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus founded. Likewise, St. Paul and St. Augustine immediately embraced the grace of a change of heart upon encountering the truth of God’s Revelation and lost no time in spreading His Word far and wide. In the same vein, Cardinal Newman wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters. Many others, like the ‘golden-voiced’ Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, American Archbishop, also promoted Jesus’ teachings and Catholic morality through prolific print and broadcast media. 

The adventure of seeking and meeting God continues at various stages of one’s life journey and the history of our world. The great faith of our ancestors can be read in Hebrews 11. God is present in all persons even if their life is destroyed by drugs or vices.  God is present in events, especially the disturbing and painful ones that serve to strengthen our faith and fuel the spiritual thirst for communion with the God of Love. We can, and must try to seek, discern, contemplate God in every human life, and trust that God will set the encounter, in His own time, as long as there is truth and love in the heart. The German Jewish convert to Catholicism, St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross, OCD (Edith Stein), wrote: “He who seeks the truth, seeks God, whether he is aware of it or not.  Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.”