By Bishop Gerald R. Barnes
There is perhaps no time of year when we are more aware of our family connections than the Christmas season. We share traditions, we exchange gifts, we enjoy favorite foods and movies together, we just generally make a point to spend time together – and it is good.
As this is the Nativity of the Lord, hopefully we also spend some time reflecting on the Holy Family. It wasn’t as comfortable a time for Mary and Joseph as it is for many of us this year, but in their great faith God blessed and protected them so that our Savior might be born. The story and the images that are engraved in our minds are of the three – not as individuals – but as a family. As we continue to study the life of Jesus we know that he learned a trade from his earthly father, and when it came time for him to begin his public ministry it took the gentle urging of his mother (“They have no wine…” John 2:1).
We should not miss these illustrative examples that the scriptures give us on the foundational importance of the family. As Catholics, we understand the family to be “Domestic Church,” and parents as the primary teachers of the faith. Pope Francis is calling our Church to examine how it is living out Catholic teaching on family matters, even asking each diocese make a report based, in part, on a survey given to local clergy and lay ministers. The results will inform the 2014 Synod on the Family next year.
Like much of what Pope Francis puts before us, this examination of family life will challenge us to look at how we are living our faith. We may not like some of the things we discover. We may feel affirmed by other conclusions. But we will try to bring it all to light in the hope that we can strengthen our families through the power of our faith. Our local Church has much to offer in promoting and celebrating family life, from our diocesan Marriage Initiative to our parenting series, the 12 Powers of Family. As communities of faith, we cannot take for granted the importance of family. And we must understand the different realities of family life today, from single-parent households to grandparents raising children to the impact of immigration law on families. In all of these cases, we offer our love and prayerful support to fathers, mothers, grandparents and children in our communities of faith.
As we begin a new year let us resolve to promote and celebrate family life, and to take a closer look at what our Church has to say about it. The hope and promise of salvation that came in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ lives in us and in our families, which are the fruits of God’s gift of life to us.
May God bless you and your families and may your Christmas season continue to be filled with joy and peace.