by Most Rev. Michael Kennedy D.D., Bishop of Armidale, Catholic Church in Australia
The Christian witness of loving marriages and families in our communities can transform the world.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God…” (1 John 3:1-2)
I would like to share with you a few of the things I heard at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland in August that really struck me. The theme was “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.
First, regarding marriage: “Love is a decision, not a feeling; I decide to love and to be loved.” Another couple said, “we are just two imperfect people trying to love each other”. Father Leo, Catholic Priest and Celebrity Chef, expressed it differently when he said “marriage is about fidelity, not perfection. On your wedding day you vow to be faithful, not perfect.”
Second, regarding parenthood: an Irish couple said “when we were young we wanted to change the world. Now we just change nappies!” Another man said “the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother, and children who are lovingly corrected feel loved and cared for.”
And lastly, regarding the whole Church: when one of us fails, the rest of us – the Church – should follow the way of Jesus, which is not to exclude and cast-off the one who fails, but to be merciful and reinstate him or her.
This is how good families treat the so called “black sheep of the family”. Families have learnt this from Jesus and the Church, but the Church also learns it from families. Families, whatever your degree of imperfection and brokenness, the Church wants you; the Church needs you.
For me personally, there are two things I know I will never forget. One is the three words Pope Francis gave us for a happy family life: “Please, thank you, and sorry”. The second is being with the couples and families who came as pilgrims from Australia. Their humble and sincere witness to love and to marriage and to family life has touched me deeply.
I saw parents expressing patience and kindness for each other and their children. And in return, kids respecting and obeying their parents. I heard mums and dads, travelling alone without their spouse and kids, speaking well of them in their absence. I saw the joy and delight everyone took in each other. And it is our relationships that make us who we are.
Every one of us is a son or daughter of God who is The Father possessing both paternal and maternal qualities. He is the one from who all fatherhood and motherhood comes.
How we live as families is therefore a powerful Gospel. This is the Gospel of the Family that was the focus of the Congress. This is the Gospel that, amidst so many shadows and clouds, is transforming the world – for now ever so subtly, but like a snow ball it is growing and will continue to grow.
God our Father, thank you for the gift of our families. Thank you for their beauty. Thank you for their messiness. Open our eyes to see the many little acts of love that our family members do for us and to see the many opportunities for us to do little acts of love for them. As your sons and daughters help us to bask in our relationship with you and with the members of our families. May our bonds of love be strengthened this very day. Touch the hearts of those families who are struggling in their relationships. May they turn to you and find peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus your Son. Amen.
Watch Humanum trailer www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AhBdElcDhs
Canberra Declaration Daily Prayer Points for October
- AWAKENING to Christ: Renewal in the Church and Revival in the Nation – with millions coming to Christ. John 3:16
- AWAKENING for Marriage: Renewal of marriages and restoration of marriage. Ephesians 5: 25 -32
- AWAKENING for Family: Renewal and healing for families. Isaiah 61:1