On Families Sharing the Faith
As the catechesis on the family continued, Pope Francis drew attention to the way in which the family is called to transmit the faith, both to its own members and to society at large.
In Scripture, Jesus calls the faithful to love God above all things, which includes even our family members; at the same time, family is the paradigm that He uses when He wants to explain the closeness of our relationship to Him: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). The pope said, “…when Jesus affirms the primacy of faith in God, he finds no greater significant paragon than family affections. And, on the other hand, these same family bonds, within the experience of faith and love of God, are transformed, are ‘filled’ with greater meaning and are capable of going beyond themselves, to create a wider paternity and maternity, and to receive as brothers and sisters also those that are on the margins of every bond.”
Pope Francis said that there is a “family genius,” which is “the wisdom of affections.” We learn to love and be loved in the family, and thus to learn who God is. The pope points out that if you do not learn this particular “wisdom” as a child, “it is very difficult to learn.”
Since God is the origin of all good, placing him above everyone else is not an insult to the family; “on the contrary, it protects them, it detaches them from egoism, it protects them from degradation, it leads them safely to the life that does not die.” This is the proper hierarchy of relationships, and when this is held truly in the heart, families are able to do great things for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Father said, “Only one smile wrung miraculously from the despair of an abandoned child, who begins to live again, explains to us God’s way of acting in the world more than a thousand theological treatises. Just one man and one woman, capable of risking and sacrificing themselves for a child of others, and not only for their own, explains things of love to us that many scientists no longer understand.” He said that the way that a family extends its love in the world gives hope; this kind of family, rooted in Jesus’ call, “restores the direction of the world to the covenant of man and woman with God.” The pope used the image of a rudder to say that the world would look very differently if the covenant of man and woman became once again the guiding force for history.
Telling the Church to start with herself, Pope Francis said, “If, beginning with the Church, we give back leadership to the family that listens to the Word of God and puts it into practice, we will become like the good wine of the Wedding of Cana, we will grow like God’s leaven!”
Turning to the world, the pope said that today’s cities are undergoing a “communal desertification” in which love is absent. “A family’s smile is capable of overcoming this desertification of our cities,” he said. Nothing else can take its place.
Finally, the Holy Father announced that the “communion of charisms,” the vocations of marriage and celibacy for the Kingdom, “is destined to transform the Church into a fully familiar place for the encounter with God.” He called for all people to have hope, for “Where there is a family with love, that family is capable of warming the heart of a whole city with its witness of love.”