The family is God’s work

13 Jun

Have you ever noticed that many adults these days seem to be confused about a lot of things? Even people of faith seem confused about the direction our country is going, about our culture, and even about our faith.

Certain elements in our culture are working hard to feed that confusion by turning things we used to take for granted upside down. What was once right is now wrong. What was once acceptable is now taboo. What was once taboo is now in vogue. Not least among the things our culture has twisted are marriage and the family.

The modern understanding of the family as the “domestic church” developed during the Second Vatican Council. The council concluded that the smallest articulation of the church is not the parish, but the family. This is where the essential teachings in catechesis, prayer and morality should be lived out in order to impart the faith to our children.

This also means that the family is not just a sociological unit. Rather, God created the family to play a specific role in his plan of salvation — and to model Christ’s relationship with the Church. The family isn’t simply two adult persons who raise children in their own particular set of values (as our confused society would have you believe). God established marriage as the exclusive and permanent bonding of a man and a woman, the two becoming “one flesh” (Gen 2:22-24).

Similarly, Christ is made “one body” with his bride, the Church (Eph 5:21-32). In doing so, God makes us his own. His love for the Church is fruitful, just as he established marriage to be fruitful.

Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul II knew this very well. His parents modeled the Holy Family for him and his brother. In his 1960 book Love and Responsibility, he wrote: “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family — a domestic church.”

John Paul also understood that the devil, in his jealousy, seeks to obliterate anything that calls people to holiness —especially the family. “At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it,” he wrote in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, “and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family” (#3).

And what is the Church’s plan for marriage and the family? We are called to model the self-giving, sacrificial love that Christ has for his Church. If we do that well, the confusion that plagues our society will evaporate as quickly as the sun dispels the morning fog.

Patrick Novecosky is the founder and editor of The Praetorium. This article first appeared in the June issue of Legatus Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

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