Monday, May 1, 2017

"The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family" (AL, ch. 9)

VIDEO BONUS: Check out Pope Francis' TED Talk,

Notwithstanding its often ordinary and superficial appearances, a sacramental marriage is a supernatural affair. It involves a Theo-dramatic interplay of divine and human wills--with a husband and a wife freely bound together by the very Bond of connection which unites the Blessed Trinity.

But a sacramental marriage also involves a lot of old-fashioned hard work, not to mention daily death-to-self for the good of the beloved! These are signs of the Supernatural at work, transforming the marriage bond from the inside out.

In the final chapter of his apostolic exhortation "On.Love in the Family," Pope Francis explores the real-life implications of a spirituality suitable for such a mission. Each of the four sections of this chapter offer insights worth pondering for anyone who wants to take Christian Marriage more seriously:
  1.  "The Trinity is present in the temple of marital communion" (n. 314). In a world awash with a gray practical atheism, it takes eyes that can see to discern divine love dwelling in the bond of marriage. Holy Father Francis notes: "My predecessor Benedict XVI pointed out that 'closing our eyes to our neighbor blinds us to God,' and that, in the end, love is the only light which can 'constantly illuminate a world grown dim'" (n. 316). Let us look upon marriages with the eyes of love.
  2. "If a family is centered on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life" (n. 317). If only families dared to embrace a paschal faith, rooted in the transformation of "difficulties and sufferings into an offering of love"! Pope Francis reiterates the importance of family prayer and popular piety, and he reminds us all that "the food of the Eucharist offers the spouses the strength and incentive needed to life the marriage covenant each day as a 'domestic church'" (n. 318). The event of Jesus' Cross and Resurrection is the meta-narrative within which every marriage and family must understand its own story.
  3. "Each spouse is for the other a sign and instrument of the closeness of the Lord, who never abandons us: 'Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age'" (n. 319). Authentic married freedom needs to allow for a "healthy autonomy" and "enables the spouses to find in the love of God the deepest source of meaning in their own lives" (n. 320). Only God can fill the God-sized hole in every spouse's heart, so let's give God some room to be God.
  4. "Christian couples are, for each other, for their children and for their relatives, cooperators of grace and witnesses of the faith" (n. 321). Pope Francis, the shepherd who has sought to smell like his sheep, certainly does not have an unrealistic vision of marriage and the family. Rather, he encourages each of us to consider the simple ways that "each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others" (n. 322). We are all connected and inter-connected on so many unseen levels, so let's look for transformation through life's everyday beautiful moments.
Finally, here is a reassuring reminder from the Holy Father's closing observation in this Apostolic Exhortation: "no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love" (n. 325)! With the pope, let's join together in this "Prayer to the Holy Family" for all those married couples--past, present, and future--destined to become vessels of Trinitarian Love:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love;
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division; 
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful 
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God's plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.