Have you ever heard the phrase, “Gospel of the family”? It is new to me. The document which came out of the Synod of Bishops in Rome uses that phrase a lot. As whenever we use the word, Gospel, we are always to look to Jesus. Thus, the text points us to Matthew 19:8: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” If we go back to the beginning, we see that God wants marriage to be permanent, the couple to cling to one another and be faithful to one another, and that there be an openness to life.
Here in Michigan, the bishops have asked that the clergy and laity focus on marriage and family from November 2014 through December 2015. This is so appropriate because of the synod which just finished, the synod that will take place in October 2015 and the World Gathering of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015, which Pope Francis will attend.
We Michigan bishops ask that all of us consider, pray about and celebrate three themes: honoring sexual differences (“Man and woman, God created them”); showing compassion for children (“Each child has life, thanks to a mom and a dad”); and promoting the common good (“A strong society thrives on strong families”).
The first theme invites us to acknowledge that the “unique roles of husband and wife illuminate the beauty of sexual difference and complementarity. At every level of their identity (emotional, biological, physiological, social and spiritual) a husband and wife are called to speak the language of married love in generous self-giving. In this self-giving, the spouses discover who they are in a way they could not otherwise discover. The divine institution of marriage – a gift to man and woman – unites a couple together through life’s challenges and excitements, hopes and dreams, until death do they part. Jesus Christ, at the center of this union, makes this possible.”
The second theme recognizes that “God’s awesome call to engage in the adventure of creating a new human being begins when husband and wife participate in the loving act. In the procreation and education of children marriage reflects the Father’s work of creation. Throughout history, man and woman through marriage contribute to humanity’s next generation by opening their lives and committing themselves to children. Marriage as a lifelong faithful union creates the environment in which children experience the love and care of a father and a mother and become aware of their own dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny.”
The third theme celebrates the fact that the “divine gift of marriage is a blessing to the couple, to their children, and to everyone who knows them. The permanence and solidarity of a husband and wife ‘offers a sign of hope and a loving witness to human dignity, in a world where hope often seems absent and human dignity is often degraded.’ (Life and Love, p. 56) Marriage, a dynamic communion of life and love, makes the family the first school of social life: authority, stability, and a life of relationships with the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society (CCC, 2207). Marriage then is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society.”
So, my sisters and brothers, let us honor and celebrate the life which so many of you live. For your marriages and families are a blessing and grace to our Church and our society.
A Blessed Advent and Christmas to you all.