Monday, October 5, 2015

Flipping the Script on the Family

"Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted
by the saint who contradicts it most."
+G.K. Chesterton 

Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. was a call to conversion.  The aftershocks continue to reverberate, of course, and the Holy Father's opening homily has now launched the much anticipated Synod on "The Vocation and Mission of the Family and the Church in the Contemporary World".

But Pope Francis' incredible impact on the hearts of people from all walks of life is a testimony to the fact that there is something more at work here.  Something so much More.

There might be different ways to describe this reality, but the following sentences from the pope's apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization seem to capture what is going on here: "Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world... It is an irresistible force" (EG, n. 276). 

The witness of Pope Francis is a reminder to us that Christ is really risen.  His leadership as the successor of St. Peter is a humble invitation to allow the irresistible force of the Resurrection to transform all of our daily interactions--including our vision of the family.  Moreover, our Holy Father is showing us that holiness looks like something:  It looks like each of us becoming more Christ-like, letting Christ live and love in us.

The only long-term solution to today's suffocating secularism is to see the Christian family reclaim its central role as the "seminary of sanctity"--the place where seeds of selfless love are first sown.  So let's pray that the Synod on the Family turns out to be less a weary debate over the "new normal" of our often wounded or broken experiences of family life, and more a call to mobilize the family as the fundamental evangelizing unit of the Church in the world.

Much as St. John Paul II did with his theology of the body, Pope Francis seems to be reminding us of God's original vision for men and women, for children bonded to their fathers and mothers, and for inter-generational bonds which support the elderly and infirm.  As Jesus himself did in the face of questions about marriage and family life, Pope Francis is inviting us to return to "the beginning of creation" (Mk 10:6).  God's "dream" has been renewed in Jesus' Resurrection, whose grace enables us to begin sharing eternal life here and now.

To contradict this generation in the sense noted by Chesterton above, Christians will need the courage to care about the family ever more deeply.  In the face of widespread attitudes of indifference and a superficial surrender to "feeling happy", we will need to find the wisdom to flip the script on the divisive issues of our day. When secular pharisees try to test us and discredit us, we must remind ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors of Jesus' incisive comment following his teaching on marriage and the family: "Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk 10:15).  After all, as Pope Francis has demonstrated, this child-like innocence has the potential to warm even those hearts hardened by the most radical dogmas of secularism.

Let us become faithful children who trust that our heavenly Father will not only heal our wounds, but will then make us wounded healers who can help build the future he desires to see.