The Church in 2015 will be engaged in the Synod on the family which has been called to strengthen the Crhistian family in a time in which the fhere is much confusion as to the nature and mission of the family in the Churh and in the world.This is especially critical in our day when false ideas on the nature of the family are being strongly propagandized and legally promoted in our society.
The family as divinely established in its nature and purposes has always been a barrier to totalitarian governments, and so they try to undermine it in different ways. In the last century totalitarian systems of Nazism and Communism tried to totally subordinate the family to the state, and in our modern democracies with totalitarian tendencies are even more radical in this project, not only subordinating the family to the state but literally redefining the family as if it were simply a man made institution that can be reshaped in whatever way the government chooses.
Thus we should see the great importance of today’s Feast of the Holy Family which among other things serves to remind us that there is a very specific divine plan for marriage and the human family which provides us with a much needed corrective to these false ideas becoming so prevalent in our society today.
It is of no small significance that when God chose to come into our world, He did so as a child born into a traditional family unit. Even though God chose to be miraculously born of a Virgin – revealing His divine origin as the only-begotten Son of the Father and signaling the newness of Creation beginning in His own humanity – nonetheless, He also chose to be raised as a child by a husband and wife, his mother and foster father, St. Joseph. In other words, while His conception was outside the course of nature, a true miracle, God also chose to be reared according to the course of nature in an integral human family consisting of a married husband and wife.
This decision in the most important event in human history is not accidental or insignificant. It powerfully confirms the divine plan for the nature of the family and its critical importance as the normal or integral context for the rearing of children. I stress the word “integral” here because there are of course true and admirable families that are not integral, simply because one parent is missing for a reason that is not caused by the surviving parent’s choosing, such as the death of, or abandonment by a spouse. Or there are single parents who adopt children because there are not enough adopting integral families which is quite different morally from the distortion of family life where a single mother deliberately has a child outside of wedlock, even by artificial means. However, the former incomplete family situations are always cases of necessity and mercy, while the integral family, according to the divine plan, is always for children to have the nourishing environment provided by a man and his wife, living the full fruitfulness of their married love and life in caring for each other and for their children.
That model of man and wife as the foundation of the human family is the general norm of the divine plan, and this is the reason that God did not choose to bypass the normal course of nature when it came to the nurturing and education of the Eternal Son as a human son. Thus does God reaffirm the critical importance of marriage and the family, always under some attack by sin and society, for human society and its welfare. The model of the family is always from that moment the Holy Family of Nazareth which provides a rich and constant source of meditation for married couples regarding the health of family life. As in the family of Jesus, family prayer, mutual devotion, humility and dedication to the home and family life are the keys to the successful and happy family in every age.
But in our day, this divine confirmation of the true nature of the human family, is a providential and most powerful corrective for certain most pernicious and destructive notions of the family being advanced in our world. Powerful cultural and political forces are trying to assert that the family has no divine plan, no given “natural” constitution, and that alternative forms of family life should be recognized and given equal rights and protection by society. Thus the family comes to be seen as a purely artificial institution, constructed by man not God, and thus its very constitution can be changed however society chooses to change it.
Thus today we witness the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, legally defined as equal to marriages between a man and woman, something almost unimaginable just a short time ago. Likewise we now live under a legal system that has secured the right of same-sex partners to adopt and raise children on an equal basis with married men and women. All of this is a pernicious attempt to elevate to an equal standing in society with marriage and family life rooted in the natural complementarity of man and woman what the Church and virtually all civilized societies up to the present day have affirmed to be an unnatural and immoral form of life.
It is a good thing to show compassion, justice and charity towards men and women burdened with an unnatural sexual orientation. Indeed it is a duty that we Christians should do so. But the attempt to legally recognize such an orientation as natural, and such unions as natural and having an equal standing with the divine plan for marriage and family life is quite another thing altogether, and we Christians have a duty to resist this . No society will survive for long when it embraces this deformation of marriage and family, and thus despises the divinely ordained for these critical social institutions, and Christians have a duty to oppose all such legal and social developments.
The teaching on Marriage that the child Jesus would propose when he reached adulthood was itself quite shocking to the men of his day. He said he had come to restore Marriage to the way it was in the beginning, that is, in accord with the Divine Plan. So he condemned divorce and remarriage which had been allowed by Moses. His teaching opn marriage of man and woman refers back to Genesis and thus makes it quite clear that marriage exists only between man and woman, and that it was so ordered that the family was to grow out of their relationship in marriage. The latter did not shock his Jewish audience which was familiar with God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, but his teaching on divorce shocked even his Apostles who wondered if it were not better in such a case for men not to marry at all!
But Jesus also revealed that, due to sin, marriage and family life could not be perfectly restored to its divine plan without the grace that He himself would provide in the Sacrament of Matrimony. He Himself was raised in a family where God’s Grace was wonderfully prevalent in both parents. Now he would provide that same Grace in abundance for all the Baptized who married and raised Christian families, so they could enjoy the true blessedness and happiness of family life in this world, as God always intended it, and at the same time prepare themselves by these same graces for the infinitely greater happiness of God’s family Life in heaven.
Nothing in the natural world has any greater importance for human society, our happiness in this world, and for preparing us for our eternal Happiness than a profoundly Christian family life. Jesus chose to give us the model of such life in His own family, and wise Christian couples will frequently return in prayer and meditation to that Holy Family of Nazareth to mine the riches of that divine model for their own marriage and family life. At the same time, we must work to save our society from its own destruction by incessantly proclaiming and living the truth about marriage and family life.