Monday, August 1, 2016

"The Experiences and Challenges of Families" (AL, Ch. 2)
"The welfare of the family is decisive for the future
of the world and of the Church."
(AL, n. 31)

Have you been worried that Pope Francis is out of touch with the "real world" problems that confront--and often divide--families?  If so, then the second chapter of Amoris Laetitia should help ease your concerns.

Entitled "The experiences and challenges of families," this chapter addresses a wide array of challenges and questions. Here is a brief sampling of three fundamental issues:
1. Extreme individualism "which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the idea that one's personality is shaped by his or her desires, which are considered absolute" (AL, n. 33).

What if my family is not all about me?  With his now typical flair, Pope Francis warns about thinking of the family as a "way station, helpful when convenient"; he knows that "it is easy nowadays to confuse genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily, as if there were no truths, values and principles to provide guidance, and everything were possible and permissible" (AL, n. 34).  In the face of this persistent threat, the pope calls Christians to present the deeper, more meaningful motivations for choosing marriage and family.

True freedom is expressed only through an authentic gift of self: only those who lose themselves for the sake of Christ and his Gospel will find themselves.

2. Openness to grace is the key to understanding and living family life, rather than just "stressing the doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues" (AL, n. 37). Christ does not propose an impossible ideal.  Rather, He offers the necessary and sufficient strength to make the ideal become the real. 

So, what if living the Christian life is possible only with the help of God's grace? Trust in God's grace alone can reform and transform my conscience. Christians need to "present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfillment than as a lifelong burden" (AL, n. 37). After all, God's grace breaks the bonds of narcissism, which "makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs" (AL, n. 39).

As St. Paul recounts for us, Christ's grace is sufficient, for in our weakness his power reaches perfection.

3. Ideological colonization.  What if "rights" and "equality" are being used as powerful weapons to deconstruct marriage and family? Just as the old-fashioned colonization involved a take-over, a redefining of the rules of engagement, and a coerced complicity with the new world order, so the contemporary colonization proceeds apace.

In the words of Pope Francis, an ideology of gender "denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family....Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time" (AL, n. 56). As created beings, we ought to accept our existence as a gift.  This includes accepting the fact that "biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated" (AL, n. 56).

This is not a matter of "judging" people, of course, but a matter of exposing and resisting "ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality" (AL, n. 56).

Finally, even though this chapter addresses a number of other challenges, Pope Francis concludes by reminding us that "We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity" (n. 57).  Amen, Papa Francesco!

For the sake of the world and of the Church, let's pray that the Holy Family continues to intercede on behalf of families everywhere--


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