FAMILY VOCATION IS GOD’S CALL
Article 1 of 2 covering Part II
This is the third of six articles dealing with items on the agenda proposed for the Synod of Bishops which aims to strengthen Family Life and which is being held in Rome, October 4–25, 2015. In preparation for this Synod of Bishops a previous Synod was held in October 2014 also discussing Family Life. The official report of that first Synod was published as the Study Document for the 2015 Synod and called Instrument Laboris. This series of articles is intended to give a brief synopsis of the Study Document. This is divided into three: Part I — Confrontations Facing Family Life; Part II — The Vocation of the Family; Part III — The Mission of the Family. The first two articles treated the Contents of Part I. This current third and the following fourth articles will deal with Part II, the Family Vocation. The final two articles will be concerned with Part III, the Mission of the Family.
The importance of God’s word on the family, shared particularly in the home itself, is the first point that is brought up. This, it is claimed, is the best way for the family to personally encounter Christ, especially when using the popular lectio divina approach.
The next point on the agenda for the Synod is the indissolubility of marriage. In the New Testament Jesus was very strong and very clear. Moses allowed the Pharisees to divorce “because of the hardness of their hearts” but Jesus declared that from the beginning of creation it was not so; a man and a woman whom God had joined together as one should not be pulled asunder (Mt.19: 6–8).
There are several other points about Jesus and families. The first, and very important one, is that Jesus was born into a family and continued to grow there until he was ready to commence his public ministry at about 30 years of age, He began to work his signs at a wedding in Cana and he announced the meaning of marriage as the fullness of revelation that restores the original divine plan (Mt 19:3).
The testimony of couples who fully live a Christian marriage highlights the value of the indissoluble bond of marriage and always demonstrates new ways of witnessing to marital fidelity. Indissolubility represents a personal response to the profound desire for mutual and enduring love: a “never–ending” love which becomes a choice and a gift of one’s self, a gift made by each spouse to the other, sealing the couple’s relation to God himself and all that God entrusts to them.
The 2014 Synod saw certain virtues in marriage surrounding and protecting married love such as respect, mutual trust and acceptance, gratitude, patience and forgiveness.
Speaking at the weekly General Audience in April 2015 Pope Francis stated that “man alone is not the image of God nor is woman alone the image of God, but man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between man and woman is not meant to stand in opposition, or to subordinate, but is for the sake of communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God.”
Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself, restored marriage and the family to their original form (Mk 10:1–12). Marriage and the family have been redeemed by Christ (Eph 5:21–32), restored in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love flows. The spousal covenant, originating in creation and revealed in the history of salvation, receives its full meaning in Christ and his Church. Through his Church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion.
Part II, Chapter 2 of the Study Document opens with the statement: “Throughout the centuries, the Church has maintained her constant teaching on marriage and family.” “Gaudium et Spes”, the pastoral constitution of II Vatican Council gave as a definition of marriage in its magnificent teaching the following: “marriage is a community of life and love” (cf. GS, 48). Love was placed as the centre of family and marriage and people were informed that reducing the content of marriage and family, as is taking place in so much contemporary culture, is to the destruction of society. So many people do not believe that Christ is present in the lives of Christians through the sacrament of Matrimony and remains with them.
After II Vatican Council, the Popes have written many encyclicals and other documents on marriage. Among those mentioned by the Study Document are Pope Blessed. Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”, a beautiful document but sadly remembered for only one paragraph on the special bond between conjugal love and the generation of life; Pope St. John Paul II, who was regarded as an outstanding expert on marriage instruction, wrote Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sne), Familiaris Consortio, Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), and Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth). While the last two documents are not directly on marriage they give an excellent teaching on love. The following are examples: the love between man and woman is fully understood only in light of the love of Christ Crucified; ‘marriage based on an exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa; God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love; love is the principle of life in society.
The Study Document treats of family prayer which includes listening to the word of God as a family. It is stressed that the Lord’s Day must be re–discovered because this develops a sense of belonging to the Church
The benefits and gifts which God gives through the Sacrament of Matrimony are commitments by the married couples which are easy to accept and undertake because of the blessings which accompany them. The Church acknowledges the family as the heart of society and prays that family life will change the world.